San Diego, CA – The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) recently unveiled a voluntary program to reward officers for making narcotics arrests, a SDPD officer said.
“It’s unethical,” the officer told KGTV on the condition of anonymity. “It’s completely everything that we are against as law enforcement officers.”
According to KGTV, a sergeant sent out an internal email announcing the point-based program to over 90 officers in the SDPD Southern Division last week.
“It’s a reward system. A bounty system for officers seeking rewards for their arrests,” the anonymous officer said.
More severe narcotics-related arrests, such as distribution, were valued at two points, according to an attachment disseminated with the email.
One point would be awarded for less-serious drug arrests, while citations were valued at a half point apiece.
The email explained that the program would be in effect, retroactively, from March 1 until April 14.
The two officers who earned the most points at the conclusion of the program would be rewarded by having specialized unit assignments for up to a month, KGTV reported.
The competition was intended to motivate officers, while also targeting high-crime areas of the city, the email said.
It was also touted as a way for younger officers to gain specialized unit experience – assignments generally reserved for officers who have spent more years with the department.
The SDPD officer said he thought that the department was wrong to incentivize narcotics arrests, especially in lower-income areas.
“That’s unfair because my intention as a police officer is to help those neighborhoods entirely,” he said. “[My intention is not to] proactively seek people that meet the criteria to arrest, to reward myself.”
The officer said that he and some of his fellow officers expressed concerns about the program, but that they were disregarded.
“I was basically told to stay within my pay grade,” he claimed. “I was basically told that no one will find out and it is technically not illegal.”
On Wednesday, SDPD Lieutenant Brent Williams said that the email was not approved by the patrol chief, and that it was sent to the Southern Division by accident, according to KGTV. He further claimed that the competition was never enacted.
“That is false,” the SDPD officer told KGTV. “It has been implemented since the 1st of March.”
Lt. Williams subsequently issued a statement to the news outlet, and explained that the SDPD encouraged officers to be innovative in developing ideas with the potential to help the department and the community.
“Our Officers are encouraged to be creative and come forward with new ideas while being professional and ethical,” Lt. Williams told KGTV. “All ideas brought forward are vetted through our approval system and we are confident everything was done correctly in this instance.”
The department would not utilize an incentive program that would negatively impact citizens, he said.
“We are proud of the work our officers do and will continue to provide excellent service to the citizens of San Diego,” Lt. Williams added.