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More drug cases dropped; SF officials concerned

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March 8, 2011 7:40:10 PM PST
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon has dropped eight more criminal cases because of the possibility they may have been tainted by officers who are under investigation. That brings the total number of cases either dismissed in court or dropped by the Gascon to 13. The growing number of cases is causing concern among public officials, including the mayor.

"I am disturbed by the videos, what they unveil," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said.

Lee says public defender Jeff Adachi has made serious charges.

"If what he says is confirmed, then clearly not only the police department but the district attorney and others will have to take action immediately," Lee said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi chairs the Public Safety Committee. He has also seen these videos. The case reminds him of last year's crime lab scandal in which hundreds of cases were dropped because of possible tainted evidence. He hopes a pattern of abuse is not developing in the police department.

"If you think back, who's been held accountable for any of these past incidents? Really, nobody has," Mirkarimi said.

So far, Adachi has released four security videos which he says reveals illegal searches and arrests made in south of market hotels. Eight officers have been re-assigned while the FBI and district attorney investigate.

The most controversial video shows an officer putting his hand on a security camera just before they enter a room.

Veteran defense attorney Michael Rains says police typically do that to prevent hotel employees from tipping off suspects.

"If the person at the front desk see's what apartment they're at, the person at the front desk makes a call to the person in that apartment and all of a sudden the drugs are gone, the evidence is gone," Rains said.

Rains has been asked by the police officers association to represent the officers under investigation. He has met with them and says they are seasoned, good cops.

"I don't think anybody is going to come to the conclusion that any of these officers were intentionally trying to deceive somebody in writing reports or giving testimony; after all, these officers knew fully well that there were video cameras in these hallways," Rains said.

The district attorney's office declined to comment on Tuesday's dropped cases, saying only that they will have something to say Wednesday.

While this is going on, the mayor is looking for a new police chief. Lee told ABC7 he expects to have a short list of candidates early next week.

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