The San Diego Police Department Doesn’t Know How Many Civilians Have Accused Officers of Sexual Misconduct

An unusually high number of sexual misconduct incidents have placed an unwanted spotlight on San Diego County’s law enforcement. San Diego’s CBS News 8 launched an investigation into the prevalence of these incidents, only to find that the truth may be difficult to uncover.

A report from News 8 looked into the number of civilian complaints of sexual misconduct against officers. After filing requests under the California Public Records Act to find the number of civilian complaints made against both the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department since 2008. The police department responded by saying that it did not track sexual misconduct complaints, because the California Department of Justice does not require it to.

A records request denial letter from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, meanwhile, explained that it also did not keep track of sexual misconduct complaints. The answer could be obtained, however, if a person read through every single civilian complaint made in the last 10 years.

Though the departments have failed to track complaints, Philip Stinson, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University, told News 8 that the number of public arrests for officer sexual misconduct indicates that there are likely more incidents than in other, similar-sized counties. Since 2005, at least five San Diego police officers and four deputies have been arrested for sexual misconduct.

Earlier this week, San Diego agreed to pay 17 strippers $1.5 million in damages after police detained them, conducted questionable inspections, and forced them to take pictures, including documenting their tattoos like they would gang members. The women also accused the officers of making demeaning comments and threatening arrest if they tried to leave. The city attempted to have the case dismissed before the settlement was reached.