SFPD Sergeant charged in false fire alarm: I-Team update

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ByDan Noyes via KGO logo
Friday, August 30, 2019
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A San Francisco police sergeant now faces a criminal charge for disrupting a meeting on homelessness at a police station in another city.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco police sergeant now faces a criminal charge for disrupting a meeting on homelessness at a police station in another city.

Pacifica police tell the ABC7 I-Team there is surveillance video of the incident that concludes with the sergeant pulling a false fire alarm. We haven't seen the surveillance video yet; it's now part of the criminal case. But new interviews with people who were there paint a clear picture of what happened and why.

RELATED: ABC7 I-Team confronts San Francisco police sergeant accused of unlawfully pulling fire alarm

The San Mateo County coastline has a problem with the mobile homeless. Police have seen a surge in RV's in scenic parks and city streets. The I-Team found ten in a row on Oceana Boulevard in Pacifica.

Pastor Jonathan Markham of New Life Christian Fellowship tells us, "Homelessness presents our community with a wide range of problems."

Markham volunteered to be part of a citizen's advisory board to address concerns over drug use, sewage spills and blight in neighborhoods. They held their first meeting in a room at the Pacifica Police Department Aug. 7th, a closed session so the eleven members could get to know each other.

Pastor Markham: "Suddenly there was a loud knocking on the door."

Dan Noyes: "A bang."

Pastor Markham: "Yeah, a real loud bang like somebody wanted to get in and get in urgently."

Police tell us that 46-year-old Pacifica resident and San Francisco police sergeant Maria Donati objected to being kept out of the meeting and that surveillance video shows, after she banged on the door and confronted the Pacifica police chief, she pulled the fire alarm in the lobby and left.

"I think that we hold our police officers to a higher standard," Capt. Chris Clements of the Pacifica Police Department says. "I know we hold our officers to a higher standard, we would expect them to behave a little bit better than that."

Clements tells the I-Team, his investigators spent valuable time trying to track down the suspect, posting her "wanted" photo on Facebook. And as we explained Monday, the fire department had to divert an engine to handle the false alarm, as heard on dispatch recordings: "Engine 72, a fire alarm manual pull, that's going to be the Pacifica PD at 2075 Cabrillo Highway."

When Dan Noyes approached Sgt. Donati at the traffic desk she runs at San Francisco's Hall of Justice, she declined to give her side of the story.

Dan Noyes: "Hey, Sergeant. I'm Dan Noyes from Channel 7. I need to talk to you about the fire alarm. Can you tell me what happened?"

Maria Donati: "No. No. I'm not talking. Thank you."

Dan Noyes: "Why not?"

Maria Donati: "It's clear."

And today, San Mateo County Prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe filed a misdemeanor complaint against Donati -- one count, for pulling a false fire alarm. It carries up to a year in county jail and a possible $1,000 fine.

Wagstaffe told the I-Team, "We do follow a philosophy down here that for bad conduct, there's consequences."

Other cops tell us Donati should have known better. She's no rookie, worked at the SFPD for 24 years and made $226,000 last year, if you count overtime and benefits. The SFPD has started their own investigation into what happened.