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San Diego to pay $250,000 to settle police misconduct lawsuit

San Diego council settles three lawsuits alleging police assaulted women

The San Diego City Council agreed Tuesday to pay $250,000 to a woman who alleged that she was groped by an on-duty police officer after being arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen truck.

The woman alleged that Officer Donald Moncrief made "unwanted sexual comments" and then touched her breasts and exposed himself while he was taking her to jail in February 2013.

Moncrief, now 40, was suspended after the allegation was made public. He later left the Police Department, although city officials decline to say whether he resigned or was fired.

The incident was investigated but no criminal charges were brought.

The payment settles a lawsuit filed by attorney Daniel Gilleon on behalf of the woman against the city and Moncrief.

Along with approving the $250,000 settlement, the council also agreed to pay a total of $1.3 million to two women sexually assaulted by ex-Officer Christopher Hays.

Hays, who resigned after his arrest in February 2014, pleaded guilty to felony imprisonment and misdemeanor assault and battery under color of authority. He served five months in jail.

The charges against Hays involved touching women inappropriately and for sexual gratification during pat-downs, according to court documents.

A lawsuit filed by Gilleon on behalf of a third woman allegedly abused by Hays is pending.

Efforts to reach Moncrief  for comment after the council action were not successful.

In the lawsuit against Moncrief, Gilleon alleged that the department had an unofficial policy of allowing misconduct by not informing on fellow officers. He linked the allegations against Moncrief to the criminal case against Officer Anthony Arevalos.

Arevalos was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison after being convicted of assaulting women while on duty as a traffic officer. He was fired by the department.

Since the allegations against the three officers, the department has made several changes, among them requiring officers to report all instances of misconduct by other officers, requiring that two officers be present when a woman is being taken to jail, reinstituting a professional standards unit, and requiring body cameras be worn by beat officers.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, appointed to her post in 2014, has taken a tough stand against officer misconduct and vowed to fire any officer caught abusing a member of the public.

Still, Councilman David Alvarez said after Tuesday's settlement that he does not believe the department has done enough to prevent future misconduct and to hold management accountable for past misconduct.

"The actions that led to this settlement sicken me," Alvarez said. "We need to face this problem head-on and hold management accountable."

Alvarez was the lone vote against the settlements.

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