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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Joint DEA/SFPD Drug Task Force In Tenderloin Is Only Arresting Black People

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 5:15 PM

click to enlarge All according to plan. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • All according to plan.
The San Francisco Police Department is having a public relations crisis. Scandal has followed scandal: Some of the same crooked cops found guilty of federal corruption charges also exchanged racist and homophobic text messages with other officers still out on the beat.

San Francisco police now appear to be waging the war on drugs that target African Americans.  Every single one of the 37 people arrested for selling minuscule amounts of drugs to undercover cops in the Tenderloin are black, court filings show. A stark racial bias, but there's also a sexist bias: 11 out of 18 suspects arrested in the most recent sting are women. This is evidence of a clear "racial bias," according to defense attorneys, who filed motions to dismiss cases against eight of the alleged drug dealers earlier this week on grounds of selective enforcement and prosecution. 
The busts all came through a joint SFPD/Drug Enforcement Administration effort called "Operation Safe Schools." The operation's point, ostensibly, is to crack down on drug dealing near elementary schools in the Tenderloin. That sounds good — who doesn't want to keep kids safe from everything?

But the way the busts have gone down suggests something else, namely an easy and convenient way to give stiffer penalties to drug dealers cops are sick of seeing.

Nearly everyone was busted with small amounts of crack cocaine, heroin, or Oxycontin — something almost anyone walking down Turk Street can be offered at midday. If you're arrested for selling drugs to an undercover cop, it's a felony, but the penalty is likely to be probation. 

But since these busts were on a joint task force involving the DEA, all the cases — 1.4 grams of crack cocaine, a few Oxycontin pills — all go to federal court. Instead of probation, most Safe Schools suspects received a year or more in federal lockup, we reported a few weeks ago.

In making the busts, SFPD used a confidential informant wearing a body camera to record a drug transaction. The busts were also observed by cops staked out on rooftops nearby.

In at least one instance, the undercover informant shooed away an Asian would-be seller in favor of recording a sale from a black woman, according to court filings.

The informant, who waited until the black woman was off the phone to buy her drugs, later said that he was avoiding the "Asian chick" in order to get the "good shit," according to court documents. 

One cop observing another bust in progress muttered to a partner, "fucking BMs" — meaning, black males — an exchange caught on video. 

Let's put the "BM" remark in context. This is an exchange of text messages between former Sgt. Ian Furminger, convicted of corruption charges, and other police officers.

click to enlarge furminger.jpg

There is currently no official explanation as to why everyone SFPD arrested in these stings are black. The bias is inexplicable in context. Of the 1,317 people arrested on felony drug charges in San Francisco last year, 609 — or less than half — were black. 

An SFPD spokesman did not provide comment to SF Weekly. Court filings made by the U.S. Attorney on Thursday denied a racial bias but did not provide adequate explanation for the obvious statistical bias. 

In a February press release, both SFPD Chief Greg Suhr and United States Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag praised Safe Schools's effectiveness in keeping kids safe. But even that may be bullshit: Safe Schools "was not focused on the high drug-incident report areas near San Francisco public schools," defense attorneys declared.

So a bunch of low-level drug offenders — the same type of people District Attorney George Gascon has said he does not want to lock up — are finding tickets to prison with help from the feds. And all of them are black.

This looks bad for the SFPD, which has had an ugly year — and it seems to be getting worse. 
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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