San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi today released surveillance video taken during two drug busts at a residential hotel in The City's South of Market neighborhood that he says proves police misconduct and perjury.
During the busts, which occurred Dec. 23 and Jan. 5, San Francisco police officers entered residential rooms on the fifth floor of the Henry Hotel at Sixth and Mission streets after receiving tips from informants about
narcotics in the rooms, according to the public defender's office.
While the officers wrote in their police reports that they obtained consent before entering the rooms, the videos released today appear to show police entering the rooms without obtaining consent or having a warrant.
"We're talking about the violation of constitutional rights, and officers who lied about violating those rights," Adachi said.
Adachi said that in both cases, "the camera told a very different story than what the officer testified to."
The first incident occurred on Dec. 23 when four officers arrived at the Henry Hotel and obtained a master key that allowed them to open the doors to any room.
At that point, Officer Arshad Razzak wrote in his police report that officers knocked on the resident's door, announced themselves and waited for a response.
According to the report, after hearing no response, the officers used the key to slightly open the door and, without entering the home, told a female resident they were waiting outside until they could obtain a search warrant.
The woman then gave the officers verbal permission to search the premises while officers contacted headquarters and asked for a consent form she could read, according to Razzak's report.
A man inside the room was then arrested on suspicion of possessing 65 grams of heroin and a single rock of crack cocaine, said Deputy Public Defender Anne Irwin, who represented the suspect.
However, surveillance video obtained by the public defender's office from the hotel appears to show officers walking up to the door of the room, bursting in, and immediately pulling out a man and putting him in handcuffs.
In the second case on Jan. 5, four officers again responded to the fifth floor of the hotel, which Adachi called a "so-called hot spot" of drug activity, and obtained a master key.
A police report written by Officer Richard Yick stated that officers were met in the hallway by a woman who voluntarily opened the door to her room.
A man who came to the door told officers he was on probation, which the officers then confirmed with dispatch before entering and searching the room, according to Yick's report.
Razzak and Yick were both present in the two cases, according to the public defender's office.
The man and woman were arrested after police found about 15 grams of heroin, said Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement, who represented the pair.
However, the surveillance video taken on that day appears to show Yick covering the camera for about 15 seconds while other officers allegedly ordered the woman to open the door, according to Klement, who said there was never any conversation with the occupant of the room.
After obtaining the surveillance tapes, the public defender's office "kept the fact that we had the video under wraps" as the officers testified in court that they had followed lawful procedures while searching the residences.
After the video evidence was presented to the judge, the Jan. 5 case was dismissed on Monday.
When officers learned that there was also video evidence in the Dec. 23 case, they notified the district attorney's office that they would not testify, and that case was dismissed on Tuesday, Irwin said.
Adachi said he is asking for a complete investigation into the cases by the Police Department.
"If we can't trust police officers, it calls into question what they're doing out there," he said.
Police Chief Jeff Godown said he is "concerned about the public defender's report" on the two cases.
Godown said, "We're reviewing the evidence and we'll take appropriate action.
As for who would eventually prosecute the case, Adachi said it's a "very unique situation" since District Attorney George Gascon was police chief when the two incidents occurred.
"It's an obvious conflict of interest," Adachi said.
He said his department would seek to have an outside agency like the state attorney general's office investigate the case. Of course, that could pose another conflict of interest since the attorney general elected in November is former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.
The public defender's office plans to look into other cases involving the officers in these incidents, as well as other cases involving Henry Hotel, Adachi said.
"It's clearly not an isolated case," he said. "It's just chance that we were able to get the videos."