San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released a video today that he says shows a second apparent case of theft by a group of plainclothes police officers performing drug busts.
The surveillance footage is the latest in a string of videos released by Adachi since March that he claims show misconduct by officers during drug busts at residential hotels around the city.
The two most recent videos involved officers from the Police Department’s Mission Station, and police Chief Greg Suhr announced today that until an internal investigation is completed, those officers are being reassigned from plainclothes operations to other duties.
The previous videos involved officers from the Police Department’s Southern Station, and prompted the indefinite closure of plainclothes operations there. The FBI is investigating the alleged misconduct in those cases.
The video released today is of a drug bust on Feb. 25 at the Julian House Hotel, located at 179 Julian Ave. in the city’s Mission District. The bust led to the arrest of Jesus Reyes, 64, on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine for sale.
Three of the officers who arrested Reyes are the same ones involved in a December drug bust at a Tenderloin residential hotel.
Adachi released a video from that bust last week that appears to show the officers taking a duffel bag from the suspect’s room. The bag and various items from the room were never accounted for after the bust.
In the latest case involving the video released today, Officer Jacob Fegan wrote in a police report that officers were given information from an informant about Reyes selling methamphetamine inside the residential hotel.
According to the report, the officers contacted Reyes, who was sitting in his minivan outside the hotel, and he agreed to let them search his van, as well as his room.
But Reyes, who was with Adachi at a news conference today at the public defender’s office, denied consenting to the searches–which netted 1.7 grams of methamphetamine–and said he was misled into signing a consent form at the Mission Station.
Following the search of Reyes’ room, the surveillance video appears to show officers Ricardo Guerrero and Reynaldo Vargas leaving with bags they did not have when they entered the hotel.
Reyes said that when he returned to his room days later, he found that a laptop computer and digital camera were missing, as well as at least one bag that he said appears to be the same one the officers were seen leaving with in the video.
“These officers are entering hotel rooms and removing property … and these items are disappearing and not being booked into evidence,” Adachi said.
He said, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck … that is theft, that is a crime.”
Reyes’ case was dismissed by a San Francisco Superior Court judge on May 4 when Guerrero failed to show up to testify at a hearing.
Suhr, in a statement issued this afternoon, vowed to investigate the matter fully but said the officers should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“If it is determined through the investigation that the officers acted inappropriately, they will be disciplined,” he said.
The discipline could be as severe as termination depending on the findings, Suhr said.
“The hardworking men and women of the San Francisco Police Department will not tolerate dishonesty within their ranks,” he said. “There is no place in this department for dishonest cops.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News