KCBS In Depth: Police Misconduct; Pension Reform

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — California’s only publicly elected public defender and his office provide legal representation for over 25,000 people that have been charged with a crime but cannot afford to private legal counsel.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi addresses the criticism that he’s picking on the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) when he makes their scandals very public as opposed to keeping them between the two departments.

KCBS In Depth with SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi:

Last year’s incident where the department’s crime lab technician was skimming drugs was compounded by the alleged illegal searches by the department of a suspect at the Henry Hotel on 6th Street in the SOMA district.

The 22-year veteran of the criminal justice system said the searches caught on video were done without a search warrant and violated suspects’ constitutional rights.

“Part of my job is to ensure that constitutional rights of people accused of crime are respected,” he said.

According to Adachi 68 police officers had misconduct records or criminal histories hidden from the defense.

The department’s interim police chief Jeffery Godown has accused Adachi of trying to embarrass the police by calling press conferences on these alleged scandals, but Adachi said police had already lied about what happened in the police search video. He added that they gave the department’s public information officer prior notice and shared copies of the questionable video evidence for their review.

“It’s important for people to see this because most people don’t think that this happens,” he said in reference to corruption. “I understand that the chief was upset and that I should not have said anything publicly, but don’t we have a right to know what our police department is doing?” Adachi questioned rhetorically.

Adachi does take Chief Godown at face value that each case will be investigated one by one, but questions whether he is in the best position to investigate misconduct by a police department he oversees. “I do think there is a culture within the SFPD of not respecting the rights of citizens,” Adachi boldly stated. 80 cases have been dismissed by the district attorney due to alleged misconduct. Adachi expects this number to grow to at least the hundreds.

As a private citizen, Adachi has become a vocal proponent of aggressive pension reform for San Francisco government workers. Last November his Proposition B failed at the polls partly because it included medical insurance cuts.

Right now the city is spending $357 million just on retirement pensions alone,” he said noting that the result of what he considers to be a misuse of funds is basic services being cut, and people being laid off.

But he now has three more pension reform proposals that include a higher retirement age, greater employee contributions, and pension caps.

(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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