The San Francisco Police Department is shutting down the plainclothes division at its Southern Station, Interim Police Chief Jeff Godown said, due to allegations by the Public Defender’s Office of illegal police conduct during arrests.
KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler attended today’s SFPD press conference addressing the allegations. He reports that a team of six accused officers, plus their supervisor, will be taken off street duty and assigned administrative tasks.
The allegations stem from the release of three videos by Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s office. Adachi contends that the videos, recorded by surveillance cameras at two different hotels, show police making arrests without the proper warrants. The officers then filled out incident reports and gave court testimony, he says, which portrayed the arrests as legally conducted. Adachi’s office says the discrepancies amount to perjury.
Godown said he thought the situation was limited to the Southern Station, and that plainclothes officers from other units would fill in for the accused officers.
“Let the offices tell their side of the case,” said Godown, who said he will meet with all plainclothes police to review policy and procedures. He said he asked Adachi to release any new videos he had in his possession. “I’d like to know about it,” he said. “I don’t want to see it on TV.”
San Francisco Police Commissioner Jim Hammer said the allegations were “some of the most serious” he’d heard in his career. “If these officers lied it’s very serious, but we have to withhold judgment.”
The Public Defender’s Office has posted all three videos, recorded at the Henry and Royan hotels in San Francisco, on its YouTube page. One of the videos shows an officer covering up the camera with his hand. The collection includes a video that surfaced yesterday, which includes the Public Defender Office’s interpretation of on-screen events.
Spokesperson Tamara Aparton of the Public Defender’s Office said the officers claimed in a report of the incident that drugs they seized from the suspect’s hotel room were sitting on top of the bed. But the video indicates, the PD contends, that an extensive search was conducted, which police would have been entitled to only if they’d been in possession of a search warrant.
The police were also not entitled to enter the room at all, Aparton said, unless they had known there was a bench warrant out on the suspect. Such a warrant existed, she said, but no record of a search for it exists on the computer system that police use. She said the PD’s Office thinks the search for the warrant was conducted after the arrest was made.
The three cases were the first of “many that will be dismissed due to officers’ conduct,” Aparton said. “We don’t know how many will ultimately be affected. Right now we’re trying to gather information on cases involving any of the officers.”
She said the officers “made multiple arrests per day, not just drug cases but robbery stings.”