Drug dealers walk, thanks to SFPD shortcuts 

The City is about to start another parade of drug dealers walking free because of misdeeds within the San Francisco Police Department. Once again, some elements of the SFPD may have embarrassed themselves, their fellow officers and the whole city by foolishly taking shortcuts around the law.

This time, the Public Defender’s Office has released security videos from the Henry Hotel, a South of Market single-room-occupancy hostelry with a notorious reputation. The grainy images show members of a plainclothes team from Southern Station seemingly entering hotel rooms without warrants or consent and then lying about their actions on the arrest reports.

This latest police scandal comes on the heels of hundreds of drug cases being brought into question after a crime lab technician was accused of stealing drugs she was testing for cases during a six-month period last year. That incident has cost The City valuable tax dollars for outsourcing and investigations, and once again tarnished the reputation of the administrative and operations leaders of the SFPD.

The Henry Hotel case is much more damaging to the police department, as it involves more than one SFPD member committing alleged crimes, and moreover, it seems systemic.

It also raises questions about the current interim police chief, Jeff Godown, who was in charge of the department that oversees field and investigations units at the time of these alleged incidents.

What’s really maddening about the episodes in which the cops are accused of falsifying evidence is that the persons arrested were allegedly in possession of substantial amounts of drugs and could well have been convicted if the arrests weren’t questionable. The Henry Hotel had 143 police calls since last November — averaging slightly more than one per day — and it has a long record of housing drug users. Cutting corners to make shaky arrests should not have beennecessary.

The total number of cases thrown out so far is already in the double digits and rising fast — as is the number of videos being made public. Meanwhile, the entire plainclothes team starring in the hotel videos is stuck on desk duty during investigations by SFPD internal affairs, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI. Their street duties had to be picked up by officers on loan from other stations, which means police are even more short-handed than usual in fighting The City’s crime.

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