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Four San Francisco Cops Plead Not Guilty to Federal Charges

| February 28, 2014
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2:30 p.m. Friday Update: BAY CITY NEWS - Four San Francisco police officers have pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges of conspiring to violate civil rights and steal property, money and drugs seized during searches and arrests. The officers are four of six charged in two separate federal indictments.

Officers Arshad Razzak, 41, of San Francisco, Richard Yick, 37, of  San Francisco, and Raul Eric Elias, 44, of San Mateo, each pleaded not guilty to six counts they allegedly committed while working at San Francisco’s Southern Station in 2010  and 2011.

Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill, pleaded not guilty to five counts allegedly committed while he was working at the department’s Mission Station in 2009 and 2010.

Another officer named in that indictment, Edmond Robles, 46, of Danville, declined to enter a plea today while a former officer also charged, Reynaldo Vargas, 45, of Palm Desert (Riverside County), entered a plea on Thursday. All six men have been granted release on $50,000 bond.

3 p.m. Thursday Update: Here’s law enforcement reaction to the federal grand jury indictment of six San Francisco police officers on civil rights violations, conspiracy and other charges:

First, Police Chief Greg Suhr:

Yesterday the US Attorney’s Office handed down Federal Criminal Indictments for 5 San Francisco Police Officers and 1 former San Francisco Police officer for their conduct as related to the FBI Investigation initiated in March of 2011 into alleged warrantless searches captured on video. The felony indictments come as a result of a thorough 3 year investigation by the FBI with which the San Francisco Police Department fully cooperated.

The summons for the criminal charges were served on the officers involved this morning by SFPD Command. The affected officers have been suspended without pay, effective immediately; and will remain so until this matter has been adjudicated.

Of the many concerns my administration inherited from past administrations, this investigation – by far as the public’s trust is everything to us (SFPD) – has been of the gravest concern.

As I said on the day that I was sworn in as Chief of Police when asked about this ongoing investigation, “There is no place in the San Francisco Police Department – and shouldn’t be in any police department – for a dishonest cop.” Should these officers be proven guilty of any of the charges as alleged, I will seek immediate termination and expect that the Police Commission will agree and act expeditiously to make that happen.

I am grateful to US Attorney Melinda Haag, former Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas, and current Special Agent in Charge of the FBI David Johnson for their thorough and comprehensive investigation into this matter.
Although federal authorities have represented that they found no evidence that the conduct of these few officers, as alleged, is an indicator of a larger “systemic concern” within the SFPD, I want to assure the public that policies, procedures, and on-going training to those policies and procedures; along with additional supervision of officers working in plainclothes was put in place during the first weeks of my administration to safeguard against even the suggestion of anything like this happening again.

Next, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who brought the alleged police misconduct to light in 2011:

“Today’s indictments are confirmation that the constitutional rights of San Franciscans matter. I commend the U.S. Attorney for taking seriously the reports from ordinary citizens who had been humiliated, stolen from and hurt by police officers sworn to protect them. For years, our clients told us their rights were being violated, and for years we raised the issues in front of judges. Ultimately, it took a federal investigation to hold accountable those who would violate the public trust.”

Then, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who was police chief when the alleged crimes took place:

I am relieved to know that the officers have been indicted, after I referred the matter to federal authorities. It is extremely disappointing that the officers violated the trust of the community and tarnished the reputation of all the hard working men and women in uniform. As law enforcement, we must all work hard to ensure our agencies operate with the highest integrity and are deserving of the trust the public bestows upon us.

Finally, Martin Halloran, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, who told the Associated Press the indictments were apparently based on the questionable testimony of unreliable informant witnesses.

“However, we do understand that these are nonetheless serious charges,” Halloran said. “It is important to remember that the accused officers will have their day in court since federal grand juries only hear one side of the story.”

On Thursday, KQED’s Mina Kim spoke with Stanford Law professor Robert Weisberg, who co-directs Stanford’s Criminal Justice Center.

“I wouldn’t want to view this as an indictment of the whole department,” Weisberg said. “I don’t know that this would be described as ‘deep and systemic’ … One could still describe it as an isolated incident, but it’s a really bad isolated incident.”

Original post: Federal prosecutors have announced the indictment of six San Francisco police officers, including a former officer, in a case in which police are alleged to have conducted illegal searches and stolen property from residents of single-room-occupancy hotels.

Separate grand juries brought charges against the officers, including deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy against civil rights, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, falsification of records and extortion. Three of the accused officers worked out of the department’s Southern Station; three were at the Mission Station.

Conviction on the most serious charges in the indictments would carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The indictments announced today stem from allegations made in 2011 by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. He made public a series of videotapes (including the one embedded at the top of this post) that showed police officers conducting apparently illegal searches, roughing up suspects and stealing property.

Adachi’s disclosures resulted in charges being thrown out against more than 100 defendants charged with drug offenses.

The officers named in Thursday’s indictments are:

Southern Station Defendants

• Officer Arshad Razzak, 41, of San Francisco
• Officer Richard Yick, 37, of San Francisco
• Officer Raul Eric Elias, 44, of San Mateo

Mission Station Defendants

• Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill
• Officer Edmond Robles, 46, of Danville
• Reynaldo Vargas, 45, of Palm Desert (Riverside County)

A conviction on the most serious charges in the indictments, involving the alleged drug conspiracy, could carry a 20-year prison sentence and a $1 million fine.

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Category: Criminal Justice, San Francisco

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • OhSnapDJB

    Like I ALWAYS say: NEVER EVER EVER TRUST NOR SPEAK TO ANY COP…….EVER! There’s no such thing as a “good cop”. Any and EVERY cop will lie to cover their own ass. Any and EVERY cop will lie to justify an arrest. And EVERY cop will lie to protect other cops PLAIN AND SIMPLE!

  • Geo.

    There might be other aspects of this story to look into, such as hiring practices, relaxation of standards, questionable recruiting standards and inadequate background investigations prior to hiring of police applicants. This could be a case of good cops gone bad, but it might also be a case of bad people being hired. I know of instances of officers who were hired in departments, even with serious juvenile criminal records in their background to bolster minority hiring, for example.