New SD police chief meets the communityAround the City, Online Only, Top Highlights Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman spent her 55th birthday Monday night answering questions from residents at the LGBT Center and vainly, but good naturedly waved her hands to try and stop the happy birthday song from being sung to her.
It was Council President Todd Gloria who informed the estimated 85 people who gathered at the Center that Monday was Zimmerman’s birthday. Gloria, who acknowledged he is a workaholic, said Zimmerman works harder than him.
“This woman works all the time. Today is her birthday,” said Gloria, who then presented the new police chief with birthday cupcakes from the Hillcrest business Babycakes.
Zimmerman, who was sworn into office March 4, is the first female police chief in San Diego and was the first nominee by incoming Mayor Kevin Faulconer Feb. 26. Zimmerman, who was assistant police chief, replaced William Lansdowne, 69, who retired.
The hour-long event was a meet-the-chief which was also attended by at least 30 other officers. Nicole Murray Ramirez read written questions that were handed to him and Gloria.
Zimmerman received several questions about how police deal with transgender individuals, such as whether police could use the right pronouns in talking to them to placing transgender persons in correct jails. Zimmerman said she could look into the pronoun issue, but the sheriff’s department operates the jail system.
“We are reaching out to all communities. We respect all individuals, no matter who it is,” said Zimmerman. “Our practice is to treat everyone with respect.”
When someone asked Zimmerman a question as to how to deal with a bad roommate without specifics, she responded, “Kick them out!”
Zimmerman said she strikes San Diego to make it the safest city in the country. “You should feel safe no matter where you live. We are committed to this goal,” she said.
She has only been police chief two months, but already the first officer misconduct case has occurred in which a San Diego police officer was arrested by La Mesa Police for domestic violence with his wife. Zimmerman immediately suspended the officer, although the district attorney has yet to file a charge as of Tuesday as the victim has recanted the complaint.
Under Lansdowne, about nine officers were separately charged with various offenses ranging from rape to drunk driving. Some officers were suspended, some were fired, but those accused of misdemeanors were able to do other work.
Zimmerman said she would be tough on “the terrible few who dishonor our badge.” She said it irked her that some officers made a decision “to discredit our badge,” as “it does take years to build up the public’s trust.”
Zimmerman said the department’s biggest challenge is that “half of our police department is eligible to retire in four years.” Recruitment of new officers, retention to keep present officers from going to another law enforcement agency, and equipment needs are all major challenges, she said.
The chief also said homeless issues are challenging too, adding that “it’s not against the law to be homeless.”
Ramirez told the group he has seen great changes in police since the 1960s when there were few or no minorities or women hired as officers. “Things have greatly changed,” he said.
Salt & Cleaver restaurant in Hillcrest provided refreshments.
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