Six San Francisco police officers raided rooms during drug busts without search warrants, and two of the officers then falsified the reports to justify their actions, the Public Defender’s Office alleged Wednesday.
Two surveillance videos were made available by Public Defender Jeff Adachi at a news conference. He said the reports expose discrepancies between what police said and what actually happened in the two cases. Adachi said the behavior of the officers involved was “clearly not an anomaly” at the Police Department.
The District Attorney’s Office dropped one case and a Superior Court judge tossed the other one.
Both cases took place on the fifth floor of the Henry Hotel at 106 Sixth St. The first bust occurred on Dec. 23. In the report, Officer Arshad Razzak said he received a tip from an informant that there was a large amount of heroin in Room 504.
Officer Arthur Madrid then obtained a master key from the front desk clerk, and along with officers Razzak, Richard Yick and Robert Forneris, went to Room 504. The report claims, “Madrid knocked on the front door of room #504 and announced our presence. There was no response.”
But the footage — which the Public Defender’s Office obtained from the hotel owner — tells an entirely different story. All four officers walk up the hallway and, without knocking or waiting for an answer, enter the room. The officers put a man in handcuffs and take a woman down the hallway.
That woman then signs a consent form to search the hotel room, a form that needed to be signed before the officers entered the room, according to Deputy Public Defender Anne Irwin, the defense attorney in the case.
Police found 65.5 grams of heroin and a rock of crack cocaine in the room, violations punishable by up to 16 years in prison.
In the second case, Yick makes the Jan. 5 arrest with officers Razzak, Raul Elias and Raymond Kane. In his report, Yick writes that the four officers received another tip about a drug dealer in Room 509.
When the officers get to the fifth floor, they run into the woman staying in Room 509, and she “approached room 509 and opened the door,” the police report said. Police found 15 grams of heroin in the room.
But during a court hearing, the woman testified that she was forced to open the door by police and never gave her consent, according to Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement.
In the video, it is difficult to see what happens because Yick deliberately puts his hand on the camera to block the view, according to Klement. He has his hand on the lens for 15 seconds, Klement said.
District Attorney George Gascón, who was police chief during the raids and the top prosecutor when the cases were tossed, said he was very concerned when he saw the videotape during a news conference Wednesday.
His office will conduct an investigation and there is no need to pass it on to an independent agency, he said. The office will also look into other cases involving those officers.
“When we do not play by the rules, the whole system crumbles,” he said.
All the officers under investigation — each has 12 to 15 years experience — will be put on administrative duties during an internal affairs investigation, according to interim police Chief Jeff Godown.
Godown acknowledged that there seemed to be a discrepancy between what was in the police report and the video. But he said there needs to be more investigation to determined what exactly happened.
“These officers deserve an investigation,” Godown said. “Like anything else, they’re innocent until proven guilty.”
It is the second scandal within a year regarding the department’s oversight of drug cases. Last spring, it was revealed that a crime lab technician had allegedly tampered with evidence and stolen drugs for recreational purposes. It resulted in the dismissal of cases and the outsourcing of drug testing by the department.
Staff Writer Ari Burack contributed to this report.