policeblotter_sfa.jpg



On September 2nd, 2009 Tisha Harvey lived a community member’s worst nightmare. On her way to pick up her daughter in the city’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood, she was pulled over by an officer claiming she ran the stop sign at the intersection of Rutland St. and Sunnydale Ave.

The officer proceeded to handcuff Harvey, throw her her to the pavement, and dig his knee into her back. She pleaded with the officer to explain his behavior, eventually calling out for bystanders to locate a community worker who could help her communicate with the officer. If the ordeal wasn’t enough, Harvey was later charged with battery and resisting arrest.

Harvey, a mother of two and teacher’s aide for disabled preschoolers, has no history of criminal infractions. At one point during the trial Harvey told the court that when the officer approached her she had a feeling that harassment and profiling were imminent.

The SFPD officer was a man “woefully out of touch with the people and the neighborhood he was sworn to protect.”Prosecutors asked if she felt this way because she was a black woman driving a new car.

“No,” she told the court. “Because I was a black woman in a poor black neighborhood driving a new car.”

Harvey was recently cleared of all charges in a trial that lasted just under one week. Jurors deliberated for less than a day after hearing testimony from witnesses as well a the police recording as Harvey pleads with the officer, asking why she was arrested.

Public defender Serena Orloff argued that the officer had fabricated the stop sign violation because he believed Harvey’s new 2008 Chevy Impala to be stolen.

The officer testified under oath that when he confronted Harvey she struck him in the chest, and later, while pinned to the ground, attempted to incite bystanders to attack him.

Witness accounts corroborated Harvey’s retelling, while there was apparently insufficent evidence to substantiate the officer’s claims.

In a conversation with the Appeal, Orloff says that she recognizes that an issue of race is inextricable from the incident, but does not necessarily believe the officer was a racist.

Instead, she says she feels the SFPD officer was a man “woefully out of touch with the people and the neighborhood he was sworn to protect.”

Due to the sensitive nature of the situation, Orloff spoke with a number of community members before the trial. One resident in particular, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Orloff that she is currently working with Captain David Lazar to foster better communication and cooperation between residents and police officers. Their mission is bridge the longstanding gap between poorer community members and the officers who serve them.

Tisha Harvey is presently in cooperation with an Office of Citizen Complaint’s investigation into the arresting officer.

Update: Since we published this article we have learned that officer is identified through public record as Officer Ryan Hart.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • bloomsm

    Not to get in the way of a good story, but is there any official comment from SFPD? My guess is “no”, if an OCC complaint is coming. It’s a terrible situation to be wrongly accused (and charged!), but it’s also not really fair journalism to omit any reaction from SFPD, or the arresting officer (why isn’t he named?), or the District Attorney. If you are going to quote the public defender and the accused, it would only be balanced to seek comment from the other side, agree?

  • bloomsm

    Not to get in the way of a good story, but is there any official comment from SFPD? My guess is “no”, if an OCC complaint is coming. It’s a terrible situation to be wrongly accused (and charged!), but it’s also not really fair journalism to omit any reaction from SFPD, or the arresting officer (why isn’t he named?), or the District Attorney. If you are going to quote the public defender and the accused, it would only be balanced to seek comment from the other side, agree?

  • Shea O’Neill

    Excellent points.

    As for the omission, when I contacted the communications and policy assistant, as well as the deputy public defender I was informed they wouldn’t be releasing the name of the police officer at this time.

  • Shea O’Neill

    Excellent points.

    As for the omission, when I contacted the communications and policy assistant, as well as the deputy public defender I was informed they wouldn’t be releasing the name of the police officer at this time.

  • C.

    This isn’t the first instance of such racial profiling of which I’ve heard. Years ago, the husband of a girlfriend’s co-worker was pulled over for no apparent traffic violation on Valencia St., while he and a friend – both African-American – were driving his new Lincoln Continental to have dinner in the Mission on a night when his wife and my girlfriend were working late. Both were subject to unwarranted, extreme and abusive treatment by SFPD, who evidently took them for drug dealers cruising Valencia Gardens (when it was a more serious and more violent project, not mixed use & demographic and occasional “crack-deal lite”). Very unfortunately for the police, my girlfriend was an attorney and her co-worker a senior legal assistant at a large, prominent SF law firm. Senior partners of the firm, who knew her husband from the firm’s social gatherings, took on the case, pro bono of course. SFPD did not look good, and their lame defense did not stand for a moment. I can’t remember the details of the outcome or the settlement – I believe there was one – but SFPD did not prevail. Still, the two men had had to spend most of a night in jail, and to endure the abuse.
    There is perhaps some type and degree of street-smarts about gangsterism that applies to police work on a street beat, but this kind of racial profiling is definitely not it.

  • C.

    This isn’t the first instance of such racial profiling of which I’ve heard. Years ago, the husband of a girlfriend’s co-worker was pulled over for no apparent traffic violation on Valencia St., while he and a friend – both African-American – were driving his new Lincoln Continental to have dinner in the Mission on a night when his wife and my girlfriend were working late. Both were subject to unwarranted, extreme and abusive treatment by SFPD, who evidently took them for drug dealers cruising Valencia Gardens (when it was a more serious and more violent project, not mixed use & demographic and occasional “crack-deal lite”). Very unfortunately for the police, my girlfriend was an attorney and her co-worker a senior legal assistant at a large, prominent SF law firm. Senior partners of the firm, who knew her husband from the firm’s social gatherings, took on the case, pro bono of course. SFPD did not look good, and their lame defense did not stand for a moment. I can’t remember the details of the outcome or the settlement – I believe there was one – but SFPD did not prevail. Still, the two men had had to spend most of a night in jail, and to endure the abuse.
    There is perhaps some type and degree of street-smarts about gangsterism that applies to police work on a street beat, but this kind of racial profiling is definitely not it.

  • bloomsm

    Shea–try the court files maybe? Unless it’s sealed, it is a public record. I ask because a few years ago the Chron identified the worst offenders in the excessive use of force category. Just wondering whether this is a repeat offender.

    And see a post at sfbg.com re the Byzantine OCC System: http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=9625&catid=4&volume_id=452&issue_id=466&volume_num=44&issue_num=14

    Maybe I shouldn’t link to the competition but why not.

  • bloomsm

    Shea–try the court files maybe? Unless it’s sealed, it is a public record. I ask because a few years ago the Chron identified the worst offenders in the excessive use of force category. Just wondering whether this is a repeat offender.

    And see a post at sfbg.com re the Byzantine OCC System: http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=9625&catid=4&volume_id=452&issue_id=466&volume_num=44&issue_num=14

    Maybe I shouldn’t link to the competition but why not.

  • Eve Batey

    No, no, link please! We don’t play that old media no links shit.

    Shea’s on the case with the DA and is also getting the officer’s name as we speak! We’re all about filling coverage gaps,

  • Eve Batey

    No, no, link please! We don’t play that old media no links shit.

    Shea’s on the case with the DA and is also getting the officer’s name as we speak! We’re all about filling coverage gaps,

  • bloomsm

    This why I love the Appeal. Because you listen to your readers and you take input from us as if we’re worth listening to!

  • bloomsm

    This why I love the Appeal. Because you listen to your readers and you take input from us as if we’re worth listening to!

  • Eve Batey

    Aw, thank you! We would be fools not to use the flexibility and benefits of the internet as ruthlessly as possible.

    But, hell, you are our “customers.” We are here for you! This is how it should work!

  • Eve Batey

    Aw, thank you! We would be fools not to use the flexibility and benefits of the internet as ruthlessly as possible.

    But, hell, you are our “customers.” We are here for you! This is how it should work!

  • Mike

    SFPD officer Ryan Hart smashed my head into a wall requiring 7 stitches when I was already hand cuffed and cooperative in a holding area (without security cameras). He even said “Are you ready for this” before blood started gushing from my forehead. I then had to be sent to hospital in an ambulance (for 7 stitches) and a tetanus shot costing me $5,000. To make matters worse he added battery of a police officer to the arrest which got dropped at first court hearing.