In the wake of another video allegedly showing police misconduct, San Francisco’s new police chief, Greg Suhr, is looking to equip officers with cameras to capture arrests, The San Francisco Examiner has learned.
The department will be looking at several different models of personal cameras that an officer would be equipped with before going into a drug bust or other arrest that requires consent or a search warrant. Suhr confirmed the plan Tuesday just hours after Public Defender Jeff Adachi showed reporters a video he says is proof that officers stole a laptop and digital camera from a suspected drug dealer.
It was at least the sixth surveillance video allegedly showing police misconduct released this year by Adachi and local criminal defense attorneys.
The chief’s plan already has the support of the Police Officers Association, Suhr said, but it would first need to be approved by the Police Commission.
The San Jose Police Department in 2009 started testing the TASER AXON audio-video recorder, a Bluetooth-style camera that attaches to an officer’s ear.
“That would be a great idea if it was cost effective,” Police Commission President Thomas Mazzucco said of Suhr’s plan. “There’s nothing for officers to hide, and I think it would be good for the public to see through their eyes for once.”
Adachi’s latest footage shows a Feb. 25 drug arrest by Mission district plainclothes officers Ricardo Guerrero, Reynaldo Vargas and three other cops. Those officers can be seen walking into an apartment building empty-handed, but on the way out Vargas and Guerrero are holding bags that allegedly contain missing valuables.
Police would eventually arrest the occupant of the apartment, Jesus Reyes, 64. He was charged with possession for sale of methamphetamine but prosecutors dropped the charges on May 4 after Guerrero failed to show up to testify despite a subpoena, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
Vargas and Guerrero were also involved in another videotaped arrest that defense attorneys allege shows theft by officers at the Jefferson Hotel during a Dec. 30 drug bust.
A deputy public defender involved with both cases, Qiana Washington, said the laptop, which belonged to Reyes’ nephew, and the digital camera have not been seen found since the arrest.
“These are valuable items and they seem to have disappeared,” Washington said. “It appears they are burglarizing homes under the color of authority.”
The department is aware of the latest allegations and it is part of an internal investigation, Suhr said. The involved officers have all been taken off plainclothes duties, and some have been reassigned to administrative duties as the investigation unfolds.
“I want to emphasize that these officers have the same rights as any other citizen,” Suhr said. “They are assumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Timeline of misconduct allegations
Public Defender Jeff Adachi has released about a half-dozen surveillance videos this year that he alleges indicate police officer misconduct.
March 2: Illegal searches and falsified police reports from drug arrests at the Henry Hotel on Sixth Street on Dec. 23 and Jan. 5.
March 3: Illegal search and falsified police report from a drug arrest at the Hotel Royan in the Mission on Dec. 31.
March 7: Illegal search and falsified police report from a drug arrest at the Henry Hotel on Dec. 2.
March 30: Illegal search and falsified police report from a drug arrest at an apartment in the Richmond district on March 1.
May 11: Illegal search, falsified police report and theft by officers during a drug arrest at the Jefferson Hotel in the Tenderloin on Dec. 30.
Tuesday: Illegal search, falsified police report and theft by officers during a drug arrest at the Julian Hotel in the Mission on Feb. 25.
Shakeup of brass shakes loose $1M
A major shakeup of the San Francisco Police Department command staff by new Chief Greg Suhr comes with some winners and losers and is also expected to save The City about $1 million.
The shakeup is a boon to some veteran insiders at the department, especially Kevin Cashman, who was promoted to deputy chief from captain. Cashman will oversee operations once again after being demoted in 2010 in the aftermath of the crime lab scandal.
Cashman will take the place of Jeff Godown, the former LAPD officer who skyrocketed to head of operations and then to interim chief of police following then-Chief George Gascón’s surprise appointment as district attorney in January.
Other major promotions include Lyn Tomioka. The lieutenant who headed the media affairs office is now a commander and Suhr’s chief of staff. She replaces Tom Shawyer, who is retiring.
Meanwhile, Dan Mahoney was demoted from commander to captain and will take over a district station. Mahoney and Suhr were two of the three final candidates for chief of police.
Richard Corriea, Mikail Ali, Michael Biel and Lea Miletello were promoted to the rank of commander. Deputy Chief Denise Schmitt will continue to head the office of administration and Deputy Chief James Dudley will handle special operations. Deputy Chief David Shinn and Cmdr. Sandra Tong remain at the airport.
The new command staff was sworn in by Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday.