SF police say they will continue to use master keys for drug busts 

San Francisco Police Department Chief Jeff Godown said Friday that officers will continue the common practice of using master keys to enter residential hotel rooms for searches, despite Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s request that they stop.

On the heels of nearly 60 drug raid and robbery cases being dismissed since last week due to alleged warrantless searches by a unit from Southern Station, Adachi issued a letter to police and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office saying the policy is a violation of constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure

In response to the letter, District Attorney George Gascon said his office would be “looking into it,” while Godown was more blunt.

“We’re not doing anything,” Godown said at a press conference Friday. “A passkey is no different than someone booting down the door with their foot or using a ram.”

Adachi said his request is supported by surveillance footage of the police unit from the Sixth Street Henry Hotel that appears to show the officers entering a room with a master key without knocking or identifying themselves, as required by law.

Adachi said the police chief’s response might prompt him to take further action.

"If they don’t act, we will go to the Board of Supervisors and seek legislation,” Adachi said. “If they can do this in the Tenderloin, they can do it anywhere in The City.”

The District Attorney’s Office and SFPD are still looking into pending cases involving seven officers and one supervisor in the plainclothes unit of the department’s Southern Station, which covers the South of Market, southern Embarcadero, China Basin and Treasure Island areas. The FBI has been handed the overall inquiry into the conduct of the officers and federal investigators will have final say over whether the officers acted illegally or committed perjury in arrest reports.


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Dan Schreiber

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