The Special Operations Division was led during 2017 by Division Chief Paul Azevedo and Assistant Chief Fiona Dunleavy. The division investigates cases involving misuse of public funds, political corruption, hate crimes, threats and other crimes impacting the integrity of the justice system, such as perjury, filing falsified documents, and, criminal misconduct of government officials, including peace officers and other public employees. In all, the division had 209 open investigations in 2017.
The Special Operations Division also reviews officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. The Office of the District Attorney has conducted reviews of all officer-involved shootings (OIS) in the line of duty by San Diego County peace officers since the mid-1970s. The purpose of the District Attorney’s review is to provide an independent review of all shootings and other use of deadly force, fatal and non-fatal, to assure the public that peace officers in San Diego County are performing their duties in a legally-justified manner.
If the peace officer’s actions were determined to be legally justifiable, a letter summarizing the facts and statements of the deputy or officer and other witnesses is written and delivered to the respective police chief or San Diego County Sheriff. During 2017, the division completed reviews of 20 officer-involved shootings and two in-custody deaths.
In 2016, the Chiefs of Police, Sheriff and District Attorney implemented a new policy on how public release of law enforcement video obtained during an officer-involved shooting would occur. During 2017 the District Attorney released video in eight officer-involved shooting cases dating back to March, 2016.
The Firearms Compliance Team (FACT) investigates and prosecutes persons who attempt to purchase or acquire firearms but are legally prohibited from doing so. Prohibited persons include felons, persons subject to a restraining order, persons with certain misdemeanor convictions, such as domestic violence, or persons who have been previously committed to a mental health institution. A prosecutor and investigator are assigned to FACT cases throughout the county. In 2017 they reviewed 186 cases.
The Background Unit handles all in-house investigations including background checks for potential employees. Last year, the unit performed 256 background checks.
In addition, the division has international liaisons that assist with cases in other divisions or branches.