Feds indict SFPD cops, alleging a drug ring and shakedowns of the poor

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San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr speaks during a news conference at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.
AP photo by Jeff Chiu

Federal grand juries today indicted four San Francisco Police Department officers, an SFPD sergeant, and a former SFPD officer on a variety of corruption, civil rights violations, and theft charges stemming from illegal raids on poor residents of single room occupancy hotels in San Francisco.

“Our department is shaken,” Police Chief Greg Suhr told reporters at a morning news conference. “This is as serious a matter as I’ve ever encountered in the Police Department.”

Yet Suhr also distanced himself from scandal, telling reporters, “This conduct occurred before my time as chief.” Shortly after Suhr was sworn in as chief in April 2011, he changed department policies related to the SROs, including preventing officers from using pass keys to enter the buildings without a warrant or the rooms without probable cause.

The pattern of alleged criminal behavior by SFPD officers was exposed in early 2011 by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose investigators found video surveillance from the Henry Hotel and other local SROs that supported defendants claims that police were shaking them down and then submitting false police reports.

“The indictments today are a victory for ordinary San Franciscans,” Adachi told reporters today, emphasizing that in addition to personally profiting from the shakedown, these officers were also submitting false testimony in perhaps hundreds of cases, including 100 that his office has gotten dismissed. “These allegations not only involve violations of the constitutional rights of our clients, but also lying on police records that were used to sent individuals to prison based on the testimony of these officers.”

Once the videos were made public, the investigation was referred to federal investigators because District Attorney George Gascon’s office had a conflict of interest, given that he had just come from serving as police chief in the SFPD, where he presided over the officers involved in this scandal.

Gascon issued a public statement saying, “I am relieved to know that the officers have been indicted after I referred the matter to federal authorities. It is extremely disappointing that the officers violated the trust of the community and tarnished the reputation of all the hard working men and women in uniform. As law enforcement, we must all work hard to ensure our agencies operate with the highest integrity and are deserving of the trust the public bestows upon us.”

Raw video of the press conference via KTVU.

His office didn’t respond to Guardian questions about his culpability in the scandal, but Gascon is likely to be asked about it when he holds a press briefing this hour. [UPDATE 5:30PM: During a brief press availability, Gascon said the indictments shouldn't be considered a reflection of his leadership of the department: "Anytime you have a large organization, you are going to have people who operate outside the boundaries of what is acceptable." Asked by the Guardian when he became aware of allegations that his officers were being accused of shaking down tenants in the SROs, he said, "We became aware at the same time everyone else did, when the videos came out." The press availability was cut off after 10 minutes because Gascon was giving a State of Public Safety speech upstairs, showing up 25 minutes later, but spokesperson Alex Bastian said he would try to get answers tomorrow to Guardian questions about Gascon's record and independence when it comes to prosecuting police abuse cases.]

Those indicted today were Officers Arshad Razzak, Richard Yick, Raul Eric Elias, and Edmond Robles, and Sgt. Ian Furminger. Also indicted was former officer Reynaldo Vargas, who was caught on videotape appearing to steal a laptop computer from a tenants in the Henry Hotel, and who Suhr said was dismissed from the SFPD before the federal investigation began.

Suhr also said that all of those involved have been on administrative duties throughout the investigation, which the SFPD cooperated with, and that some of them (he couldn’t say how many) were also required to turn in their firearms.

These indictments also don’t appear to be the end of this unfolding scandal. “There were other officers involved and they will be dealt with administratively,” Suhr said without providing details. When asked by the Guardian whether anyone in the command staff may face discipline, Suhr said “no.”

But with these six facing possibly lengthy prison terms, it will be interesting to see what they have to say about what others in the SFPD knew about their actions, which also allegedly involved running a drug ring out of Mission Station, where Furminger, Robles, and Vargas are accused of illegally seizing and selling marijuana.

Adachi wants to see this investigation continue: “It would be hard to believe that nobody who was involved in supervising these officers was aware of it.”

Comments

No cop will rat out another one unless facing jail time. Good luck uncovering this growing scandal.

Oakland had the Riders. LA had the Ramparts. SF has the Boosters.

Bigger than Fajitagate, that's for sure.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

I hope the jury considers the grievous discrimination la raza is subjected to on a daily basis when they decide guilt or innocence.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

Even the illegal ones. Or maybe, especially the legal ones.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

Were these officers paid for services for all the years that they were accused? If so then we were using public funds to pay criminals.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

And this is under the conservative's elitist/corporatist Savior Lee. Shouldn't he be held accountable? He's "The Top."

Posted by Miguel on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

Why stop there? Obama must be held accountable for our dirty cops!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 8:02 am

“The indictments today are a victory for ordinary San Franciscans" Adachi you are an idiot. Ordinary San Franciscans would not live in the Henry Hotel or any of the other SRO's in San Francisco. There are more drugs, felons, parolees living in those hotels that you can shake a stick at.

The "ordinary San Franciscan's" that testified against the officers have criminal records and are career felons. I hope all that information will come out during the trial.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

is that the cops enlisted people with criminal records in their criminal pursuits. The cops used informants--which means people who have been blackmailed into serving the cops--to sell the illegal drugs the cops themselves had *stolen.*

Vargas was a thug cop who formerly tried to murder someone in a blind cop rage and was let off by a compliant police commission. There is doubtless far more corruption than has been uncovered in this case.

(A similar case in King City recently with cops stealing from poor people.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

Lock 'em all up and throw away the keys.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

That's just it he knows how corrupt people are he wants to stop the rot that is decaying the earth everyday. You should be Thankful he cares about right & wrong and will fight for it

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 7:31 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 9:45 pm

Anyone who has spent more than a few years in San Francisco knows how corrupt the Police Department is.

Where did all the boot licking cop lovers go? I am seriously disappointed in you sociopath guest, why aren't you out here defending your homies?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 12:52 am

Didn't think so.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 8:15 am

Just get rid of the SROs on 6th street already!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 5:45 am

what do we need these bloviated killing machines for again? (to make the world white for twitter!)
i have witnessed countless police-gang (5 or more cops) actions on late nite market street that would straighten a pigs tail. the cops are white, black, asian and women. the people they kick and harrass are mostly young afro american males, whom they handcuff and abuse openly for all passers-by to witness. maybe now with adachi’s expose, the cop thugs will have to tone down their antics a little. but seriously, can there be any hope for any of us when a lousy, out of town invader, power trippin, ignorant, corrupt, violent cop get’s his or her stick up?

Posted by Guest eliza on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 9:33 am

Nothing.

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... SFPD "SHAKEN?" ... what does that mean? Go to youtube and type in Jason Garza to see just how shaken the chief of police or Police Commission is when I try to get a meeting to show what I have as far as rigged and unaccountable methodology. Would it be like the shaken that SF was when it had my case thrown out of federal court in 2003 (C02-3485PJH) with testilying and fraud only to sign a confession in 2007 with the Office of Inspector General admitting fault and guilt YET leaving their innocent vindicated victim for DEAD? http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html .... it is 2014 and NO ONE from the court, DPH, Sheriff nor city attorney have explained. Shaken, ha, ha, ha but apparently NOT stirred to ACTION. Keep Drinking the Kool-Aid. They are just waiting for this to fade from collective thought when the next CRISES comes along ....
Watch the youtube videos to see and for even more LAUGHS notice what I get from the LGBT Gay Liaison and what the "SAFE ZONE" at SFPD means ... I was illegally 5150'ed at the Northern Station in their "SAFE ZONE" and AMAZINGLY can not speak to the LGBT person at Northern Station nor the CAPTAIN ...learn the GAMES ... watch the INHUMANITY.
Then watch the other videos in regard to all the other UNHELPFUL agencies that are SUPPOSE to help .... and if you haven't noticed I have been blogging about this and lack of health care to which the readers have constantly made fun ... NOW that this is here ... and I do await the pink elephant, crazy, etc comments ... for the POWERS that be don't need to try to fool us ... most already are ... the rest too concerned with only themselves and the perfect storm has been created .... to few that really know, the many fools manipulated and those who question .... cast aside. Perfection for CONFUSION abound ... throw in some risk management ...
Shall we see how long before I get a meeting with the Chief of Police or Police Commission .... ha,ha,ha.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 9:51 am

Can you not get any attorney in the city to lake on your case???

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

I use to stand on top of my Post at Leavenworth Street apartment roof and watch this big black cop accost the hookers on the corner and grab their purses, take out the money and shove them off on the face. He would actually count the money as he walked away. Scum!

Posted by Richard on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

(Though I'll assume you included the detail for verisimilitudinous purposes in your completely believable story.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

And in spite of this - you did NOTHING.....

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

right to seize the ill-gotten assets.

I feel sure he handed them in at the precinct.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

among the 9 officers who shot at Idriss Stelley on 6-12-01 were Furminger and Razzak. Furminger has already killed a white man on 6th street in 1999

Posted by Guest Idriss Stelley Foundation on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 11:08 am

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