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SFPD officer charged in alleged whistleblowing case draws support of protesters

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Joel Babbs, right-center, with Phelicia Jones at a protest outside of the San Francisco Hall of Justice Wednesday morning. (Photo courtesy Sara Gaiser/Bay City News)

A San Francisco police officer who was accused of using false vehicle registration stickers after he complained about racist remarks by superior officers drew the support of community activists Wednesday in a protest outside of the Hall of Justice.

Officer Joel Babbs appeared in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday but again postponed entering a plea on misdemeanor charges of using false vehicle registration stickers and filing a false police report.

Outside of court, protesters from the group Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, formerly known as the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, rallied on the steps of the courthouse in his support.

Phelicia Jones, a group organizer, said they were there to protest what she described as a racist culture within the San Francisco Police Department.

Babbs, who was arrested on Sept. 21, has filed a civil lawsuit against The City alleging that the charges were filed as retaliation against him after he made a complaint and recorded superior officers making what he felt were racist remarks.

“They retaliated against Officer Babbs, a good cop turning in bad cops, a good cop turning in racist cops, a good cop turning in rogue cops,” Jones said.

Babbs, who has been with the department since 1991, said Wednesday that he returned to work as of Nov. 8 but remained on limited desk duty with no public contact.

His defense attorney Murlene Randle said she hopes to file a motion to have the charges dismissed at Babbs’ next appearance, based on the results of Department of Motor Vehicles and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency records she has requested.

Randle said she expects those records to show, among other things, that Babbs’ vehicle was properly registered, contrary to police allegations. She said it appears Babbs may have inadvertently put the sticker for one of his vehicles on a second vehicle.

The false police report charge was filed because Babbs reported a license plate stolen after other police removed it from his vehicle. Randle said no record of that removal was entered into the computer system so there was no way of knowing who had taken it.

The City Attorney’s Office and police have previously acknowledged they are aware of the civil lawsuit but declined to comment.

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