San Diego council approves first woman police chief in city history

San Diego council approves first woman police chief in city history
The City Council voted 8 to 0 to affirm the nomination of Asst. Chief Shelley Zimmerman to become police chief, the first woman to hold that job in city history. (San Diego Police Department)

SAN DIEGO -- The City Council voted 8 to 0 on Tuesday to affirm Mayor Kevin Faulconer's nomination of Asst. Chief Shelley Zimmerman as the first woman to be police chief in city history.

Zimmerman, 54, a 31-year veteran of the department, succeeds Chief Bill Lansdowne, 69, who retired Monday after 10 years as chief.


"I'm so excited for our city that you're here for us," said Councilman Scott Sherman.

Some council members said they would have preferred a nationwide search. But Faulconer said he believed the department could not wait months for a new chief.

While numerous speakers -- and all eight council members -- praised the selection of Zimmerman, representatives of the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union and the Committee Against Police Brutality called for the department to take steps to increase rapport with residents of certain neighborhoods.

"Communities of color, for many years, have felt a lack of trust with the Police Department," said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the local ACLU.

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, a former police officer and the lone African American on the council, called the Police Department "America's finest department" and told Zimmerman that she is confident that the department "will get stronger under your leadership."

The selection of Zimmerman comes amid two high-profile cases of allegations against officers of abusing women while on duty. One case has resulted in criminal charges; the second case is under investigation.

In the wake of the two cases, the city is discussing the possibility of a managerial audit by the Department of Justice to see whether its policies of identifying and ousting problem officers are strong enough.

Also, the council is set to approve $2 million to equip officers with video cameras on their uniforms to allow the brass to review the officers' inter-action with members of the public.

Zimmerman told the council that her attitude toward problem officers on the 1,856-officer force is that, "your failures will not be tolerated."

Zimmerman said she is excited to lead "the very best police department in the most beautiful city in the world."

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