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More SFPD Drug Cases Tossed Amid Surveillance Video Probe

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Surveillance video of a drug bust conducted by San Francisco Police that may show misconduct. (CBS)

Surveillance video of a drug bust conducted by San Francisco Police that may show misconduct. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A total of five drug cases involving eight San Francisco police officers have been dismissed due to allegations of police misconduct, that the Public Defender’s Office claims is documented on surveillance video.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released a fourth video Monday of a case that allegedly shows discrepancies between the footage and what was written on police reports and said in court testimony by officers.

“It’s a case of police, lies and videotape,” Adachi said.

That fourth case was dismissed by the district attorney’s office on Dec. 22. A fifth case involving officers from the prior incidents was dismissed Monday by prosecutors, Adachi said.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

Video from two initial cases was released to the media by Adachi last Wednesday and appeared to show police misconduct in two incidents in December and January at the Henry Hotel, a South of Market residential hotel.

A third video surfaced from the public defender’s office on Thursday, which appears to show plainclothes officers kicking in a door at the home of a disabled man on New Year’s Eve at Hotel Royan, a residential hotel at 405 Valencia St. in the city’s Mission District.

The video released today was the third to come from the Henry Hotel, located at Sixth and Mission streets, and occurred on Dec. 2, said Scott Sugarman, a private attorney who represented a man arrested in the case.

According to a police report, the man was seen by police Officer Buhagiar wearing a white and tan jacket as he entered the hotel. That jacket was found in the room with crack cocaine and marijuana inside, and the man was arrested.

However, the surveillance footage released Monday shows the man wearing a black jacket as he entered the building, contradicting Buhagiar’s version of what happened, Adachi said.

When the man, whose name is not being released, was arrested, he insisted that the white and tan jacket was not his, a statement the officers did not include in their report, but acknowledged during court testimony in the case.

Sugarman said it could not have been a case of simple misidentification since “there’s no mistaking black and white,” and the report, written by Officer Arshad Razzak, did not say that Buhagiar was unsure of what he saws nor include the man’s denial.

The man’s case was dismissed by the district attorney’s office on Dec. 22. Two women who were also in the room accepted plea deals for drug charges in the case.

Sugarman said the dismissal came after he told prosecutors that he had video evidence contradicting the officers’ report.

Sharon Woo, chief assistant for the district attorney’s operations department, said “the decision not to prosecute didn’t necessarily come from the video,” but rather from issues involving an informant in the case.

A fifth case was dismissed Monday morning involving a suspected robbery that turned into an arrest for possession of drugs for sales, Adachi’s spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton said.

That arrest, which occurred on Dec. 12, was scheduled for trial this Friday, but prosecutors dismissed the case Monday, Barak Aparton said.

Some of the officers from the prior potential misconduct cases were involved in that case, as well as an Officer Christ, Barak Aparton said.

Christ is the eighth officer named by the public defender’s office in the misconduct probe, along with Razzak, Buhagiar, Richard Yick, Robert Forneris, Arthur Madrid, Raymond Kane and Raul Elias.

The Police Department had not yet released the first names of Officer Buhagiar and Officer Christ.

Woo acknowledged that the case was dismissed Monday due to the involvement of officers named in the probe, and said the district attorney’s office is looking at other cases involving the eight officers to see whether they might be affected.

“Cases are coming up quickly and we’re making a decision to move forward” or not depending on the evidence, Woo said. “We need to be certain of the evidence we’re receiving in court.”

Six of the officers have been placed in administrative roles during the investigation.

Police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said he did not know if the two officers named Monday, Buhagiar and Christ, have also been put on administrative duties, but said that is standard procedure any time there’s an investigation involving an officer.

All eight officers are from the Police Department’s Southern Station, where plainclothes operations have been suspended pending an internal investigation, Police Chief Jeff Godown said Friday.

The FBI is also conducting its own investigation into the alleged misconduct of the officers, spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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