San Francisco police Chief Jeff Godown said today he was going to continue business as usual at the department’s Richmond Station after a video surfaced Wednesday of three of its officers allegedly mishandling a search and arrest of a man suspected of a felony sale of marijuana.

During a preliminary hearing Wednesday, a judge dismissed the case of McLaren Wenzell, 23, after reviewing security footage showing the March 1 search of Wenzell’s apartment located near 33rd Avenue and Geary Boulevard in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood.

The video shows the three officers – identified by Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s office as Sgt. Thomas Watts and Officers Michael Zhang and Michele Martinez – searching Wenzell’s apartment building.

The three officers’ badges cannot be seen in footage of the three standing in the building’s garage, nor are their badges seen later in additional footage of them roaming hallways on the building’s third floor in search of drug activity.

In police reports submitted to the court, Officer Zhang said the three officers had their badges exposed on their “outermost clothing.”

Zhang also said Watts asked for Wenzell’s consent to search his home, but in a news conference at Adachi’s office on Wednesday, Wenzell’s attorney Robert Amparan said the consent may have been coerced.

The case is one of 83 that have been dismissed due to several videos released by Adachi’s office that show conflicting information between police reports and what’s seen in the footage.

The previous videos showed alleged police misconduct at various residential hotels in the city in recent months, and the FBI has taken over the investigation into those cases.
Adachi said Wednesday that in Wenzell’s case and in others, the officers “are generating the information that they are relying upon” to prosecute the case.

Godown, speaking at a news conference today prior to a meeting of the Police Department’s command staff, said he was “troubled and kind of perplexed” by statements made by Adachi about the case.

“He continues to paint the Police Department with a wide brush” and “screams the sky is falling,” Godown said.

“I’m not going to sit back and let people bad mouth this department, and put out allegations of misconduct when they’re not true,” he said.

The chief said he saw nothing in the video that led him to believe there’s any issues with the officers that would require them to be removed from their regular duties.

District Attorney George Gascon had said Wednesday that he also disagrees with the judge’s decision to drop the case, and that his office would continue to pursue charges.

“We’re going to continue to do our job and we’re not worried about people videotaping what we’re doing,” Godown said.

Capt. Richard Corriea of the Richmond Station said he has “tremendous confidence” in the three officers involved in the video.

“If my mom called the police, these are the officers I’d want to go,” Corriea said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • Greg Dewar

    Crime’s out of control in the city. Murder rate is sky high, violent crimes are way up, and meanwhile our temporary Chief spends most of his time defending a PD that is way out of control and the former Chief (and now DA) is befuddled and investigated. When is Mayor Lee going to step up, admit that under his administration crime is sky high, and DO SOMETHING about it instead of finding new ways to give Larry Ellison more of the City for free?

  • SeanD

    Again Greg I must disagree with your assertion that crime is “sky high.” It simply is not by historical standards and you do your overall argument regarding the dysfunction of the SFPD (with which I do agree) a disservice. It is enough that we have a police department unwilling to address its own shortcomings in any meaningful way to demand real reform but to gild the lily using fear is, frankly, unseemly.