San Francisco Public Defender and mayoral candidate Jeff Adachi today released evidence that he said are new examples of excessive force and theft by police officers, months after releasing a series of videos that appeared to show police misconduct.
At a news conference this afternoon, Adachi presented reporters with surveillance video of an altercation between police and the owner of a market at the corner of Clement Street and Fifth Avenue in the city’s Richmond District.
The video shows market owner Charles Tran, 44, being pushed then handcuffed by an officer, and although the police report filed about the incident said the officer took action after Tran balled his fist and took a fighting position, no evidence of that was apparent in the video.
At the news conference, Adachi also brought forward five people who said they were the victims of various thefts made by police officers during searches around the city in 2010 and earlier this year, including one man who said police took $10,000 from a safe at his home that remains unaccounted for.
Adachi said two of the five victims passed polygraph tests while the other three had inconclusive results for their tests but did not show deceit.
The latest allegations are similar to ones made by Adachi earlier this year in which surveillance videos appeared to contradict written police reports. One video also appeared to show plainclothes officers taking items out of a residential hotel room in a duffel bag that was never accounted for in evidence.
Some of the same officers involved in the earlier cases were also involved in the latest allegations, Adachi said.
The misconduct accusations have led to more than 100 cases being dismissed in court, according to the district attorney’s office.
Adachi said the latest video and alleged thefts show a “disturbing pattern” of police misconduct.
“Dishonesty of this kind cannot be tolerated,” he said.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said he was made aware of the latest video and theft allegations late Wednesday and has forwarded the evidence to the FBI, which is already investigating the cases brought to light earlier this year.
Suhr said he disagreed with Adachi’s representation of the video.
“I don’t think that there’s the smoking gun here that Mr. Adachi would suggest,” he said.
Adachi called on Suhr and the Police Commission to establish a new policy for handling officers accused of misconduct, saying its policies have not been updated since 1994.
Suhr scoffed at that notion, saying “this Police Department is over 160 years old, and to suggest that we don’t have a policy that prohibits police officers from criminal conduct or dishonesty is ridiculous.”
Adachi also answered questions about the timing of the news conference today, five days before Tuesday’s election in which he is running for mayor.
Adachi said he did consider delaying the announcement until after the election to avoid the perception that it was politically motivated but eventually decided to move forward.
“I am the public defender and I have an obligation to protect the public against incidents like this,” he said. “What’s important here is that the public is informed about what happened in these cases and that immediate action is taken.”
In response to the earlier allegations, the Police Department suspended its plainclothes operations at its Southern Station and has placed some of the officers involved in those cases on administrative duties.
Suhr said today that he has emphasized honesty at the department since taking over as the city’s top cop in April.
“There’s no place for dishonest cops in the San Francisco Police Department, my officers know that,” he said. “I think we should go with innocent until proven guilty, which I know Mr. Adachi agrees with.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News