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SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi On SF Police Surveillance Video Scandal

The San Francisco Police video Surveillance Scandal has hit the media and led to what ultimately could be a sweeping investigation and eventually a wholesale change in how police work is done. This blogger met (for the first time) with San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi to talk about the scandal and its implications on Friday for this video interview.

Mr. Adachi presides over an office of 90 lawyers, a budget of $24 million, and has handled about 25,000 cases over his tenure since he was elected in 2002. Adachi explains that the one truism is "everyone has an eye on you."

That "eye" is the camera, be it a camcorder, standard photo camera, a camcorder, or in the case of the surveillance scandal, a surveillance camera. What happened is a couple of weeks ago, we had a case where the client said the police came into my room without a warrant." Adachi says the police filed a police report that claimed otherwise - that they had consent to enter the place.

What the San Francisco police officers filing the report didn't count on was the existence of a video right in the hallway and which captured their every move and "directly contradicts what the police said."

The Public Defender says "police have to have a warrant in order to go into your home. This is America. This is the constitution." The officers were caught on camera violating the basic constitutional rights of the very people who's homes they broke into. "In one of the videos, you can even see one of the police officers, who knows the surveillance camera is there, put his hand over the surveillance camera." Then the officer took it away once the police were ready to leave. The trouble is, he didn't keep his hand up long enough.

This is the video Adachi's referring to:

"The bottom line," Adachi says, "is the conduct the officer did is illegal and it contradicted what he put in the police report." Jeff says that when an officer writes a police report there's a box that writes "under penalty of perjury." That means if the report is false, the officer has lied to the court with the stroke of a pen.

Even with that, Adachi says the officers don't take the issue of perjury seriously. In the Surveillance Video Scandal, the officer gave testimony consistent with the police report, even as the video contradicting him was shown in court.

Eventually, that, and other videos, led to the San Francisco District Attorney dismissing 57 cases last week. And there may be more.

That's because once an an officer is found to have committed perjury in one case, or officers involved in 57 cases here, that can be applied to other past cases. So this scandal is what Mr. Adachi describes as the "Pandora's Box" that could lead to discoveries of other San Francisco police misconduct examples.

Former Police Chief Backs Off Investigation

The announced investigation that was to be ran by Former SF Police Chief and now San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, but Gascon has announced he will not lead the investigation of the SFPD on this matter. The FBI will take charge of the investigation. (And while they're supposed to, Jeff Adachi says that as of this report, the FBI has yet to contact him. Adachi wants to be kept informed by the FBI.)

On The Matter Of A Master Key

In another case that came to Mr. Adachi and involving the Lutx Residential Hotel, San Francisco Police went to the landlord's office and pushed and intimidated him, demanding a master key. The police used the key on six different occasions to enter rooms, again without a search warrant.  The landlord says he believes in the police, but they can't use him to go into people's apartments, as they have done.

Even with Adachi's public complaint, and the video scandal, San Francisco Police Chief Jeff Godown says his charges will continue to use a master key in drug busts. In a press conference Friday, at about the same time as I was talking with Adachi, Godown said "We're not doing anything (different)," and argued that a "pass key is no different than someone booting down the door with their foot or using a ram."  Adachi has said he would seek legislation to make the police stop their current practices.

The San Francisco Riders Case?

To this blogger, the San Francisco Police Surveillance Video Scandal has all of the marks of Delphine Allen v. City of Oakland, known as The Riders Case in Oakland.  In that famous episode in Oakland Police history, four Oakland Police Officers, beat, intimidated, and abused West Oakland residents, then lied about their activities in their police reports.

It cost the City of Oakland $10.9 million in paid settlements to 119 Oaklanders and their lawyers, and sweeping changes in how the Oakland Police conduct activities with potential suspects. And the OPD is under the watch of an independent monitor, who reports to the Federal Court on a regular basis.

Adachi is not prepared to go as far as to suggest the San Francisco Police have a "Riders" problem with rogue police officers, but that was before Godown's statements. Overall, the appearance is that the San Francisco Police Department's not going to change its practices on its own.

A Hotline To Call

Mr. Adachi says if you have an incident of police misconduct to report, call 415-575-4290. Another practice is to purchase and wear a tiny pen-mounted video camera or use a camera-equipped clock that can rest on your desk.  A cyber walk to Spycameras.com reveals a wide variety of cameras, many at affordable prices.

Another way is to use your Samsung Android smartphone and download Qik.com.  You can activate the Qik.com app, and use the smartphone to livestream any illegal police activity happening before you, then send the video out to you Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.  If you leave the Qik.com app on for about five minutes, it will broadcast a true livestream video to your viewers.

It's the only way one can protect themselves against illegal police actions and obtain evidence.   Technology is the ultimate disruptive force that can protect the civil rights of innocent San Franciscans.

Stay tuned.

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