Wednesday, March 2, 2011 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — Surveillance video from the Henry Hotel reveals that San Francisco Police Department narcotics officers falsified police reports in order to justify searching residences without warrants or consent, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
The damning footage stems from two separate drug arrests on the fifth floor of the Sixth Street single resident occupancy hotel, Dec. 23, 2010 and Jan. 5, 2011. The videos stand in direct contradiction to police reports which were signed by officers under penalty of perjury.
Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office said the seriousness of the matter could not be overstated.
“A free society cannot abide a culture of lawlessness by police,” Gonzalez said. “Those officers who lie under oath to magistrates should be prosecuted for their misconduct. They are no better than the criminals they purport to be in pursuit of.”
In both instances, members of the SFPD Narcotics Unit acting on a tip from a confidential informant responded to the Henry Hotel. In the Dec. 23 incident, Officer Arshad Razzak states in a police report that officers knocked on the resident’s door, announced themselves and waited for a response. Hearing none, he wrote, officers slightly opened the door with a master key. Without entering the unit, officers then told the female resident they were freezing the room until they could obtain a search warrant, Razzak wrote. The woman then gave them verbal permission to search the premises while officers contacted headquarters and asked a unit to respond with a consent form she could read, according to the police report. A man inside the woman’s room was arrested after officers claimed to find heroin and crack on his person.
The surveillance video, however, tells a different story. In it, four narcotics officers – Razzak, Yick, Madrid and Forneris — are seen using a master key to barge directly into the room without knocking or obtaining consent.
Charges against the man were dropped by prosecutors this week after the surveillance footage was obtained by the Public Defender’s Office. The man was represented by Deputy Public Defender Anne Irwin.
In the Jan. 5 case, Officer Richard Yick states in a police report that officers were met in the hallway by a woman who voluntarily opened the door to her room. A man who came to the door told officers he was on probation, which police then confirmed with dispatch, Yick wrote, before entering and searching the room. After heroin was found, both the man and woman were arrested.
In the video, however, Yick is seen covering the surveillance camera with his hand while his fellow officers—Razzak, Kane and Elias–approach the room. The officers then demand the female resident open her door. All four officers then storm into the unit.
A judge dismissed the case Monday after viewing the video, said the man’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement.
Felony Supervisor Bob Dunlap of the Public Defender’s Office said the video confirms longstanding suspicions.
“For years our clients have reported tales of police entering their homes without warrants or consent, in direct contravention of the Fourth Amendment and in direct contradiction of the police version of events,” Dunlap said. “Now we have proof both of the police violating core Constitutional rights and committing perjury to cover their tracks.”
Note to media: police reports and video available through the Public Defender’s Office.