In August 1996, Barbara Rubi was about to cross the street to a garage sale in Noe Valley when she saw a car coming down the hill. Before she could step out of the way, Rubi said the vehicle struck her on the side and drove off. “People screamed,” Rubi, 69, recalled in a recent interview.
Rubi would soon learn that the alleged hit-and-run driver was a 26-year-old San Francisco police officer named Michael Redmond. He later admitted to falling asleep at the wheel after working an overnight shift, according to newly discovered civil court records obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.
Fast forward to Sept. 3 of this year and Police Chief Bill Scott promoted Redmond to the second-highest rank in the San Francisco Police Department. As one of two assistant chiefs, Redmond now oversees a vast portion of the police force including all criminal investigations, district stations and the airport.
His promotion this month has raised questions about whether an officer accused of hit-and-run driving in his past should be chosen for one of the most important positions in a department undergoing reform.
“I don’t think he deserves that role,” said Rubi, the retired owner of a health food store. “People do make mistakes and they could become perfect citizens after that, but in this case he was a police officer, he took an oath, he should be doing the right thing in setting an example and I don’t think he did.”
Redmond’s checkered history does not end there. Less than five months after the Rubi incident, court records show he would be under criminal investigation for an alleged hit and run on New Year’s Day 1997.
Then in 2011, he was placed on a confidential list of officers who have had their credibility called into question, according to a law enforcement source. Redmond was added to the so-called Brady list for hit and run, the source said.
Being on a Brady list is considered a stain on an officer’s reputation.
Law enforcement agencies keep the lists following a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland that requires prosecutors to disclose evidence that could be helpful to the defense, including information that could cast doubt on the testimony of an officer.
The Examiner could not confirm which alleged hit-and-run incident landed Redmond on the Brady list, if either.
In January 1997, San Mateo County prosecutors charged Redmond with three misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, DUI with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher and hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage, according to court records.
Court records show Redmond ultimately pleaded no contest and was convicted of the second misdemeanor DUI charge under a plea agreement that dismissed the other counts. He was sentenced to three years of probation and appears to have completed an alcohol program instead of serving a 96-hour sentence in jail.
The Examiner could not obtain a detailed description of the underlying incident that led to the charges because the files were destroyed after 10 years, according to court staff in San Mateo County.
But San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said the charges stemmed from a Jan. 1, 1997 incident involving the South San Francisco Police Department.
Redmond, for his part, said Tuesday in a statement to the Examiner that he made “some very bad personal decisions” two and a half years into his career.
“I have lived with regret ever since,” Redmond said. “I am not proud of my actions 22 years ago and I have worked every day since to be a better man, a better father and a better officer,” he said. “The experience made me grow as a person and an officer, and I feel, made me better at my job. It taught me everyone deserves a second chance inside and outside the department.”
An SFPD spokesperson said Redmond faced an administrative investigation as a result of the 1997 incident. The spokesperson said there has been no other incident involving Redmond since.
“The disciplinary process early in my career allowed me to acknowledge my mistakes, correct my behavior and continue my service to the community,” Redmond said.
Scott defended Redmond as a “man of integrity” in a statement.
“There is not a doubt in my mind that Mike Redmond is fit to serve our department and our city,” Scott said. “Under our disciplinary process, he took the actions he needed to correct his behavior. In the decades since these incidents, his track record shows that he has grown to become an exemplary law enforcement officer and a leader.”
Redmond has climbed the ranks of the SFPD over the years.
He was promoted to captain in 2012 as the commanding officer of Southern Police Station and later joined the command staff as commander of the Metro division in 2014 under former Police Chief Greg Suhr. From 2015 until this month, he served as deputy chief of the Operations Bureau.
Lara Bazelon, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, questioned whether Scott sifted through the facts of the alleged hit-and-run incidents before naming Redmond as assistant chief.
“It’s a mitigating factor for sure that these incidents are over two decades old and there is no evidence of misconduct since then,” Bazelon said. “But I also think that we should not be promoting people to those positions of power and authority who have a history of … reckless behavior that results in physical harm to other people and property damage if you aren’t sure that this person has, first of all, accepted responsibility and second of all, changed their behavior.”
In his statement, Scott said he considers the accomplishments of officers as well as disciplinary issues when making promotions.
“Our discipline system is designed to address misconduct, hold people accountable, change behavior and when possible, provide a path forward to continue their careers,” Scott said. “Because of confidentiality requirements, we generally do not discuss the specifics of disciplinary cases.”
Because Redmond is on the command staff, he might not regularly find himself on the witness stand like a beat cop. But that doesn’t reduce the significance of a high-ranking police official being on the Brady list, according to experts.
“If anything it’s more important that we know that the chain of command are conducting themselves professionally and with integrity,” said Kathleen Guneratne, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU.
“I think it makes it even worse,” Bazelon said. “I don’t think it’s a comeback to say, ‘as long as he’s in a higher position, that’s okay.’”
Bazelon said officers can end up on the Brady list for a range of misconduct from hit-and-run driving to domestic violence or perjury.
As of Sept. 10, the department had 113 officers on the list including one command staff member, eight lieutenants and captains and 104 officers, inspectors and sergeants, according to SFPD spokesperson Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
In total, there are more than 1,850 officers on the force, not including officers assigned to the Airport Bureau.
Redmond was likely not added to the list until 2011 because the SFPD did not have a policy for maintaining a written Brady list until 2010, according to a report on the department by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement.
It’s unclear if Redmond faced criminal charges for allegedly striking Rubi and fleeing. Court records show he has no criminal record in San Francisco. A spokesperson did not provide information on whether Redmond faced an administrative or criminal investigation as a result of the Rubi incident.
But Rubi sued Redmond for her injuries in August 1997, a year after the collision.
Her attorney, Russell Robinson, alleged in the personal injury complaint that Redmond struck Rubi and intentionally fled. Robinson said Rubi suffered severe bruising, displaced vertebrae and soft tissue injuries.
In a sworn deposition obtained by the Examiner, Redmond said he worked a 10-hour shift that ended at around 7 a.m. on Aug. 10, 1996, the day of the collision. After work, Redmond said he went to the gym and then to court before visiting his grandmother at her house in Noe Valley.
Redmond appears to have been on his way home to San Bruno when his vehicle allegedly struck Rubi, but he told Robinson that he had no knowledge of striking a person and did not recall feeling any kind of impact that day.
“I was tired every morning I got off work,” Redmond told Robinson during the deposition, according to court records. When asked whether he fell asleep behind the wheel that day, Redmond said, “I believe I did.”
In an interview with the Examiner earlier this month, Rubi said she was struck near 26th and Church streets.
Rubi and a friend were headed to breakfast at a cafe on the corner when she parked about three spaces from the stop sign and got out of her car, she said. Rubi was starting to cross to the garage sale when a car came down the hill.
“I just kind of scooted in and he came close enough to hit me,” said Rubi, who was 46 at the time. “Quite a few people screamed.”
Rubi said a good Samaritan from the garage sale possibly followed the car and took down the license plate number. She said someone called the police and sat her down on the curb.
The impact did not knock her off her feet, she said.
“I think they asked me if I wanted an ambulance and I said ‘no,’” Rubi said. “I was sort of in denial. ‘I’m going to be fine, I’m going to be fine. Don’t make a fuss.’ But I was shook up too and maybe a little bit in shock.”
Rubi said she and her friend still went to breakfast. That’s when she began to realize the extent of her injuries.
“My whole leg from my hip down was really starting to hurt and then it started to get numb,” Rubi said. “It was like it was almost paralyzed.”
Rubi’s friend then drove her home, where Rubi recalled struggling to get up the stairs. Rubi said she had bruising down her right side and eventually went to the doctor, who told her she had suffered a soft-tissue injury.
Rubi’s lawsuit against Redmond was eventually consolidated with another case that her attorney filed against a couple who allegedly struck Rubi in her vehicle in July 1996, weeks before the Redmond incident, according to court records.
Court records show an independent arbitrator awarded Rubi $6,800 from Redmond and $580 from the couple in August 1998. But negotiations appear to have continued on after the arbitrator award.
Rubi recalls settling the case with Redmond for $8,000.
But court records show Rubi dismissed her case against the couple in October 1998 after they reached a settlement agreeing to pay her $2,375. A month later, she appears to have dismissed her case against Redmond, with both parties appearing to agree to bear their own costs.
The collision had an impact on Rubi that lasted for some time. Rubi said she was a runner who was very active in Jazzercise aerobic exercise. She also ran a housekeeping business and at times cleaned houses.
“I couldn’t run anymore,” Rubi said. “I couldn’t exercise.”
Rubi questioned how Redmond could be named assistant chief despite having allegedly struck her and fled the scene.
“It’s public record that this happened,” Rubi said. “If they know about it, I don’t understand how the chief or the mayor would appoint him to this position knowing that he did this.”
“If he doesn’t know about it, why not?” she added. “Do they not investigate these people before they appoint them, and wouldn’t they want them to have a clean record?”