SFPD videos hot topic at law enforcement summit

May 18, 2011 7:42:57 PM PDT
San Francisco's public defender is keeping-up the pressure on the city's police department. Amid repeated accusations of police misconduct, Jeff Adachi Wednesday presided over a forum on preventing police from going astray. The newly appointed police chief is promising to get to the bottom of this scandal.

For weeks Adachi has been rolling out surveillance videos taken from single occupancy hotels in San Francisco's Tenderloin and Mission districts. Wednesday, Adachi organized a panel discussion of what he claims is systematic abuse revealed in those videos.

The videos creating the biggest stir are surveillance tapes from hotels in the Tenderloin. Adachi says they show police searching rooms without a warrant and taking suspects' belongings including computers, iPods and DVDs -- items never checked into evidence.

One of Adachi's team says the videos prove what residents of those hotels have been claiming for years.

"The video's are just a small sample of what some would say is a culture or a pattern," deputy public defender Anne Irwin said.

San Francisco's newly appointed police chief responded, saying if officers acted improperly, they will be fired.

"That's a circumstance we're going though right now with these videos; I've compelled all the officers to tell me what happened because if they won't tell me what happened, they're fired so they're telling us what went on," Chief Greg Suhr said.

Tiburon's former police chief said cops should be wearing cameras, regardless of the cost.

"How much does it cost for outfitting a car, well how much does it cost for one lawsuit?" Peter Herley said.

Suhr says he supports the idea, at least for undercover officers conducting searches.

"If they have cameras on them we'll have our own video showing the good work that they do and things that they're up against," he said.

A couple of prominent defense attorney's at Wednesday's conference agreed.

"This would be honest, this would be objective, this would portray the reality," Tony Serra said.

"At the very least you'd have a view of something that's occurring at the time," John Burris said.

Adachi says cameras on undercover officers is a good idea, but not enough.

"Is the answer more video or is it simply to make sure that people who work in the criminal justice system are accountable?" he asked.

What Adachi is suggesting is that police are operating under a code of ethics that excuses misconduct for the greater good of getting bad people behind bars.

Suhr shot back, saying to paint a 2,000 person police force with a broad stroke is unfair.

The change in Suhr's recent statements is slight but perhaps significant. He has been defending the officers in the videos, saying they are innocent until proven guilty. But now he is saying those officers involved are talking and the department is getting to the bottom of it.


Load Comments