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57 Cases Now Dropped In SFPD Surveillance Scandal

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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/AP) – San Francisco prosecutors said they’re dropping dozens more cases handled by a group of police officers who are accused of conducting illegal searches on suspects.

District Attorney George Gascon said the felony and misdemeanor cases were being formally dismissed Wednesday, which brings the total to 57 dropped over the past week.

Seven officers and a sergeant are under federal and local investigation for raiding rooms without warrants at a downtown residential hotel notorious for drug activity. Hotel surveillance video of some of the raids surfaced last week.

“If we believe we don’t have the evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, given the circumstances in what is going on with the officers at this point, then we’re dismissing the case,” he said at a morning news conference at the Hall of Justice.

The majority of the cases involve drug possession or sales, but 11 are robbery abatement cases in which undercover officers posed as would-be victims and were approached by suspects trying to rob them, prosecutors said.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

Gascon said a newly formed “trial integrity unit” within the district attorney’s office is continuing to review all open cases and acknowledged that more cases may be dismissed as the investigation moves forward.

On Tuesday, Public Defender Jeff Adachi asked the district attorney’s office to provide a list of every arrest or incident involving the dismissed officers for the past seven years.

He also requested copies of all the police reports from drug-related crimes at the Henry Hotel and Hotel Royan, residential hotels in the city’s South of Market and Mission neighborhoods where the videos captured the alleged police misconduct.

In three of the videos, released by Adachi’s office, officers apparently entered residences without a warrant or consent, contradicting what was written in their police reports.

A fourth video released Monday involved a man who was arrested after officers claimed they recognized him by the white-and-tan jacket he was wearing as he entered the Henry Hotel. The officers said they later found the jacket with crack cocaine and marijuana inside.

However, surveillance video showed that the man was wearing a black jacket when he entered the hotel just before his arrest, and the case was dismissed on Dec. 22.

The officers named in the investigation are Gregory Buhagiar, Samuel Christ, Raymond Kane, Raul Elias, Robert Forneris, Arthur Madrid, Arshad Razzak and Richard Yick.

All came from the plainclothes unit at the Police Department’s Southern Station and have been reassigned to administrative duties during the investigation.

Gascon, who was police chief when the alleged misconduct occurred, defended the Police Department from Adachi’s accusation that the cases show a culture of corruption within the department.

“The majority of the men and women in the San Francisco Police Department are ethical, hardworking people, and they work under very difficult conditions and try to do the best they can,” he said. “I think it would be an injustice to paint a broad brush.”

Police Chief Jeff Godown said his department is continuing to conduct its own internal investigation into the matter, which has prompted the indefinite suspension of plainclothes operations at the Southern Station.

Police will also be retraining about 100 plainclothes officers from the department’s other nine stations next week on search-and-seizure and undercover procedures, Godown said.

“If I find out that there’s policies and procedures that have been broken, people will be held accountable,” he said. “The public should feel confident that we are aware of the issues at hand … and we’re working to correct that so this doesn’t happen again.”

Along with the police and district attorney’s investigations, the FBI is also conducting its own investigation into the case, spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said last week.

(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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