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San Diego City Council Confirms First Female Police Chief

Shelley Zimmerman replaces retiring William Lansdowne.

Shelley Zimmerman. Credit: SDPD
Shelley Zimmerman. Credit: SDPD

Shelley Zimmerman was unanimously confirmed by the City Council today as the first female chief of the San Diego Police Department.

The veteran of three decades on the force was subsequently sworn in by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who named her to the job last week following the retirement of William Lansdowne. She had been an assistant chief and became acting chief Monday, when Lansdowne's resignation took effect.

"Let me tell you that I am confident that her years of neighborhood policing and community engagement make her the perfect fit to work with all San Diego residents as we move this department forward in an inclusive and transparent manner," Faulconer said. "Chief Zimmerman is the pre-eminent model of professional conduct."

The mayor said Zimmerman will tell city leaders what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

The SDPD has been buffeted in recent months by allegations of sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing involving a handful of officers. A longer-term challenge has been an inability to hold onto experienced officers who are lured to other agencies by promises of higher pay.

Lansdowne told reporters it was time to step down after 10 1/2 years in the post and called the 54-year-old Zimmerman the best officer to succeed him. Faulconer thanked him while making his remarks and said San Diegans owe him "a debt of gratitude."

The only public opposition to Zimmerman's nomination was over process.

Norma Chavez Peterson, head of the American Civil Liberties Union San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter, said Lansdowne's retirement would have been a great opportunity to launch a national search. Still, she said she backed the appointment.

City Council President Todd Gloria had suggested a national search and said that Zimmerman might still have been hired.

Faulconer said he put forth Zimmerman's nomination quickly because the SDPD needs immediate leadership.

Members of the public and council heaped praise on the Ohio native, who said she came to San Diego in 1981 without a job, a place to stay or knowing anyone.

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole lauded Zimmerman's "energy" and "passion." Councilman David Alvarez said she had a "great presence" in the community.

Marti Emerald, who chairs the council committee that oversees public safety, called the new chief "a ray of sunshine in blue."

In remarks after assuming her new position, Zimmerman said she was grateful for the opportunity and challenge, and promised to instill a "culture of excellence" in the department.

"We will demand it of ourselves, because our community deserves it," Zimmerman said. "It starts with the chief of police all the way through our newest recruit and our entire civilian staff. All of us will strive to be the very best at what we do."

The failures of the "very few" who don't meet the high standards will not be tolerated, she said.

Zimmerman will serve no more than four years. She signed up last year for a deferred retirement plan that requires her to leave city employment on March 1, 2018 -- a situation Faulconer said he was aware of when he chose her.

—City News Service

Tim Meese March 04, 2014 at 07:37 PM
Congratulations to Chief Zimmerman on being sworn in as San Diego's new Police Chief. She has a tough job ahead of her, but I feel that she was the best choice as our new Police Chief.

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