It’s still not clear when defense attorneys in San Francisco will be allotted a new form of evidence that up until this point has been widely disregarded–the backgrounds of the police officers involved in each case, particularly those who have checkered pasts themselves.
That’s according to an article published Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle (but not online until today), which cites unnamed Police Department sources as the reference. Although prosecutors are already required to disclose this information under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, they have not done so consistently (if at all) since this decision came down.
One such case that exemplifies this is that of Josefino Rufino, who was recently arrested on narcotics possession and is set to go to trial in July. The officer involved in his arrest, Officer Reynaldo Vargas, was suspended for six months in 2005 after reportedly cutting a handcuffed man’s face with a crack pipe after arresting him for allegedly riding a cable car without paying the fare and then lying about the incident. This information, however was never disclosed by the prosecutors in the Rufino case.
The Chron piece doesn’t stop with Vargas, listing the offenses of several other current SFPD officers that, in reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken’s words, “haven’t been fired, but whose credibility is so tarnished by allegations of past lying – dismissed or not – that they are effectively useless to do police work.” The offenses include some pretty shocking cases of domestic violence, among other things, read the whole report here.
The Chronicle report prompted a statement from the Public Defender’s Office on Monday, which lambasted the prosecution and the District Attorney Kalama Harris for not including the background of Officer Vargas in the discovery for the upcoming narcotics trial.
There are reportedly 135 SFPD officers with alleged misconduct issues like those in the story, and if and when the DA’s office releases their names, defense attorneys are sure to use this information to question the credibility of the countless cases they have worked on.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi has set a July 1 deadline for Harris to disclose the criminal records and misconduct histories of the estimated 135 police officers, but says he has received no response.
The District Attorney’s Office has said little in response, except that they are required by law to access officer’s records for individual cases.