Police actions under scrutiny

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A Samoan leader has filed complaints of racial profiling and badge intimidation with the San Francisco and Daly City police departments after an incident in which he and two others were searched while mourning the death of an elder.

Vesi Matuu, president of the Samoan Catholic Community of San Francisco, listed a number of recent offenses in letters to San Francisco police Chief George Gascón and Daly City police Chief Manuel Martinez, and demanded an apology and that police receive ethical training.

Daly City police have agreed to a meeting with the Samoan community at the end of July, and San Francisco police Officer Albie Esparza said the department is in the process of investigating Matuu’s allegations.

According to his letter, the incident occurred May 1, when Matuu and two other men were at Heritage Homes, a low-income family housing complex in Visitacion Valley. The complex is in San Francisco but is on the border of Daly City.

Matuu said that a Daly City police officer “unlawfully searched” them “without any valid reasons.”

“Although [the officer] was advised that the Samoan community of the Heritage Homes was mourning a loss of one of the elder members of its community did not soften his rudeness and macho man behavior,” he wrote.

He noted that the officer was white and used “rude languages and badly chosen vocabularies that applied to thugs and murderous [sic].” He demanded a “formal apology.”

In his letter to Gascón, Matuu listed other instances of what he described as racial profiling against Samoan and black residents in the southeast quadrant of The City.

He described a case this spring of a Samoan man, who was wearing his security officer uniform and an ID badge, being searched by San Francisco police officers while waiting for a bus. Another instance occurred around the same time of a man allegedly beaten by police near Heritage Homes.

The Daly City Police Department could not be reached for comment. However, Matuu confirmed that Martinez has agreed to meet with the Samoan community July 31 at Sunnydale Hall. He said a similar meeting will be scheduled with SFPD officials in August.

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