Prosecutors dropped another 42 criminal cases Wednesday involving arrests by a police plainclothes unit accused of illegally entering residential hotel rooms during drug raids and falsifying police reports.
That represents a significant jump in the number of cases dismissed since the scandal erupted earlier this month. The total number now stands at 57.
“Out of an abundance of caution we took a very proactive step, not only to begin to investigate this matter, but also to notify the court in cases that we believe that at the time, we did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute,” District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference Wednesday.
The majority of the cases involve drug arrests by the unit, though others were undercover robbery decoy operations.
Gascón and San Francisco interim police Chief Jeff Godown also announced new cooperative measures between their agencies, including “refresher training” for about 100 undercover officers in the Police Department on proper search and seizure procedures and the constitutional rights of those being searched. The DA’s Office will also have an attorney available to police around the clock for advice on securing search warrants.
“This is not a game,” Gascón said. “This is not something that we want to have a press conference every other day when we have a new tape. This is real, it involves people’s lives, not only for those that have been incarcerated, but also for victims in many cases.”
The eight-member undercover unit at the Southern Police Station was put on desk duty pending a police investigation, following the release of video surveillance footage from two residential hotels that appeared to contradict the officers’ arrest reports. The material was released to the media by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who has warned there could be many more cases involving the unit that could be dismissed.
Last year, a scandal at the Police Department’s crime lab led to the closure of the lab’s drug testing unit and the dismissal of about 700 cases, after it was revealed that former criminalist Debbie Madden had allegedly stolen cocaine from evidence at the lab.
Both Gascón and Godown insisted that no determination had been made on whether any of the alleged actions by members of the undercover unit were criminal.
“They’ll have their time to explain any issues that come up in the investigation,” Godown said. “We need to let that
investigation take its course.”