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San Francisco Crime Lab Review Uncovers 61 Police Conduct Issues

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San Francisco Police drug lab

A view inside the San Francisco Police drug lab. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – 61 San Francisco Police officers who might be called to testify at upcoming criminal trials have conduct issues the defense could use to undermine their credibility, said Chief George Gascon.

However, most of those cases, which must be disclosed to the district attorney under a precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland, were minor or involved personnel issues more than a decade old, Gascon said.

The police chief ordered a review of the department’s Brady disclosures after the department’s drug lab was shut down because a technician had been skimming cocaine from evidence in drug cases.

The 61 officers all have positions that require contact with the public. Gascon said the conduct issues uncovered by the review did not warrant shifting them to other jobs, a move that could compromise public safety.

He pointed out the city’s eight percent drop in violent crime during 2010 came despite a shortage of cops on the street.

“We today have about 200 officers less than we did two years ago, and yet we’ve had these very significant reductions in crime,” he said.

Despite a 12 percent drop in crime, the number of homicides in 2010 went up to 50 from 45 in 2009.

The police department’s strategy since Gascon assumed control has been to use crime statistics to deploy its 2,260 officers to the city’s most at risk areas.

The Brady review also uncovered situations involving 14 officers that are now in administrative positions or on medical leave.

Gascon revealed those numbers for the first time during a meeting Wednesday of the Police Commission that came as the Police Department defends its use of force in two recent officer-involved shootings of men wielding knives. In one case captured on a cell phone video, the suspect died.

The chief renewed his call for officers in the city to carry stun guns. To bolster his case, reporters were invited to take part in the same simulation training that police undergo.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

The simulator places the trainee in front of a video screen that poses several scenarios that require a quick decision about how to defuse the situation and whether—and when—to use force. The officer that investigates officer-involved shootings, Sgt. Mike Nevin, said the video exercise shows one video from one angle often doesn’t tell the entire story.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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