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Charges dropped against dozens of defendants in San Francisco police misconduct investigation

March 9, 2011 |  6:32 pm

Prosecutors in San Francisco dropped charges against dozens of defendants Wednesday as a result of a widening investigation into alleged police misconduct that has taken eight plainclothes officers off the streets and placed potentially hundreds of criminal cases in question.

Dist. Atty. George Gascon said that his office, acting “out of an abundance of caution,” dropped charges against 42 suspects Wednesday. In total, 57 misdemeanor and felony cases - largely narcotics related - have been dropped since allegations against police arose last week.

The district attorney’s office “took a very pro-active step not only to begin to investigate this matter,” Gascon said during a news conference Wednesday, “but also to notify the court in cases that we believe that at the time we do not have sufficient evidence to prosecute.”

The allegations against officers in the city’s Southern Station arose last week, after Public Defender Jeff Adachi released two videotapes that he said in a statement reveal that “narcotics officers falsified  police reports in order to justify searching residences without warrants or consent.”

Since then, two other videotapes have come to light, and the Southern Station’s entire plainclothes unit has been place on administrative duty and ordered not to have contact with the public. The Police Department is conducting its own investigation of the allegations, said Officer Eric Chiang, a police spokesman, and the FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations.

In a letter to Gascon, Adachi has asked for seven years’ worth of records regarding the eight officers; he calls the 57 dropped cases “the tip of the iceberg.”

Gascon called that assessment “really premature.” In addition to investigating how many cases may have been tainted by possible misconduct, Gascon said in an interview that his office is looking into “the alleged perjury and any other alleged criminal conduct on the part of the police officers to see if any evidence of criminality exists.”

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--Maria L. La Ganga in San Francisco

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