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Friday, December 5, 2014

San Francisco Cops Guilty on Federal Corruption Charges, Chief Suhr Calls for Their Termination (Update)

Posted By on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 12:30 PM

How it all started...
  • How it all started...

Update 3:42 p.m.: Chief Suhr calls for the termination of the guilty cops. Read full statement after the jump

Following a federal corruption trial in which cinematic misdeeds were alleged — shaking down parolees, straight-up robberies of drug houses, stealing material from the evidence room and selling it on eBay — two San Francisco police officers were today found guilty on a bevy of charges. 

Sergeant Ian Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles were convicted on five of the counts leveled by federal prosecutors: Wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion, and Robles was found guilty of theft. Fellow accused officer Reynaldo Vargas earlier pleaded guilty and testified against his former colleagues. 

The federal corruption probe was triggered in 2011, when San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi posted videos on YouTube of officers barging into suspects' rooms at the Henry Hotel without warrants. One of the officers' alleged victims in February described to SF Weekly what he was impressed into doing:  

"It was petty bullshit. They stole $100 from me and a cell phone. They forced me to sell drugs. They were using convicted felons with prior records so no one would believe them." 

The alleged victim said he was, many times, forced to buy hard drugs by officers who subsequently falsified the reports to obscure that this was a planned transaction. 

Per the indictment, the officers were accused of, essentially, running a dope ring out of Mission Station; raiding the evidence room and shaking down suspects for electronics, gift cards, drugs, and other goodies.

Adachi, whose involvement sparked all of this, released a measured statement: 

“The convictions bring a measure of justice to the victims, who were ripped off, falsely arrested and disbelieved for far too long. Those 12 jurors sent a message—that there are consequences for bullies who victimize the poor and powerless under color of authority.”  

Update: 3:42 p.m.: Chief Suhr addressed the media at a press conference, calling for immediate termination of the indicted officers. He released the following statement:
There is no place in the San Francisco Police Department – and shouldn’t be in any police department - for a dishonest cop.” I meant what I said. I  am seeking the immediate termination of these officers and expect that the Police Commission will act expeditiously in making that happen. Further, the San Francisco Retirement System will receive the requisite paperwork so as to terminate any future pension consideration, as appropriate. Federal authorities have represented no evidence was found 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 ongoing training to these policies and procedures, along with 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.

Sergeant Ian Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles have been suspended without pay since their arrest in February, and are set to have their pensions terminated, Suhr told reporters. 

“It’s a shock when any of our officers betray the rest of the San Francisco Police Department and the profession that we hold in such high esteem,” said Suhr.  “I stand by all but two officers of the San Francisco Police Department that do exactly as we would have them do every single day.”

Officer Reynaldo Vargas, who pleaded guilty to similar charges, testified against the two in court, where he blamed the culture of the SFPD Mission Station for their actions. To that, Suhr responded: “He also said in his testimony that he was a criminal, and I believe that he’s a criminal, and criminals say a lot of things — and he’s wrong.”

Since the police-generated crimewave ceased in 2011, the SFPD has reviewed their “entire manual” on plainclothes practices, according to Suhr. They hold ongoing ethics training and supervision of their officers.

“Only they know why they did what they did,” said Suhr.

SF Weekly's Michael Barba contributed to this report. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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