The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office released footage today of several officers beating a man who was trying to get out of the way of a cop car on his motorcycle and clipped the door.
The video shows that David Cordero, who was later charged with assault on a police officer, never attacked anyone, and that the officer who said in court that he was pinned in his car was already out the door and tackling Cordero by the time the bike touched the police-car door.
After watching the video, a jury hung in favor of acquittal on the assault charge and the District Attorney’s Office dismissed it. Cordero was convicted only of driving on a suspended license.
The officers involved testified that Cordero was resisting arrest, but the videos—which are painful to watch—show Cordero telling the cops he is not resisting and begging them to stop hurting him.
He was injured badly enough to need an ambulance to the hospital, and is now suing the city.
All of this began with little more than an allegation that a motorcyclist in the Tenderloin was running red lights. In fact, the cops attacked him while he was stopped at a light, the videos show.
“This is the type of systemic abuse that public defenders see regularly as we defend people against police reports that are presented as objective fact-based documents when they are not,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “Cases like this are a cautionary tale and serve to inform the public who may become jurors that the words inked in police reports should be scrutinized and taken with skepticism.”
The cops involved, according to the PD’s Office, are Officer Steven Oesterich, Officer Christopher Cotter, Officer Michael DeFelippo, Officer Brendan Williams, Officer Aaron Cowhig, and Officer Anthony Sharron. The office is filing complaints with the Department of Police Accountability.
The same day that this video was released, Mayor London Breed announced that she’s going to put more cops in the Tenderloin and try to amend the city’s ordinance regulating police use of spy cameras.
The irony is almost too much: the mayor says she wants the supes to give her more money to put more costs on the streets while six officers—six—go after a guy who isn’t selling drugs or breaking into any stores or doing anything to threaten anyone. He was a motorcycle hobbyist who was test-driving a bike he had been fixing up.
These interventions in the Tenderloin are going to require a significant police response. And, frankly we need more action across the entire city to deal with the car break-ins, the burglaries, and, especially, the shootings. But our police have already been working overtime to address these and other serious challenges … That’s why we will need a budget supplemental to help fund SFPD overtimethrough the rest of the fiscal year, so they can keep doing the critical work they do every day.
In 2019, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance allowing departments like SFPD to use existing surveillance technology, but it also required departments to seek Board of Supervisors approval before obtaining or using any new surveillance technologies — such as cameras used by private businesses.
While this legislation created a clear public process and transparency relating to surveillance technologies, it also created barriers for law enforcement when responding to public safety emergencies. It hobbled law enforcement when confronting life-threatening incidents like active shooters, suspected terrorist events, hostage taking, kidnapping, natural disasters, or looting. It also created a significant delay in the approval process to establish a policy to use the equipment.
To effectively deter crime and prevent crimes in progress, amendments are needed to this legislation, to clarify that peace officers are allowed to access live-feed and in real-time surveillance technologies when necessary to maintain public safety.
That’s just inaccurate. The ordinance allows the cops to use any type of surveillance in exigent circumstances, such as a threat to life or property, and it’s not hard for the cops to come to the board to seek approval for a plan to use live surveillance.
Sup. Aaron Peskin, who sponsored the law, has made it clear: The cops just have to “come in through the front door,” and submit a plan.
Brian Hofer, executive director of Secure Justice, a group that works on privacy ordinances, told me that “Breed and Chief Scott either never read the ordinance or are mischaracterizing it.”
So far, the supes have approved 32 different surveillance policies, including for Muni, and not one has been rejected. “SFPD has never submitted a surveillance policy,” Hofer said.
This is the same Mayor Breed who two years ago said she was going to divert $100 million from the cops to fund programs to help the Black community.
Now: More money for cops. Who can’t even solve problems that are right in front of them, and instead keep costing the city millions.
As the late New York Times columnist James Reston once wrote (on another topic), this policy makes perfect sense—as long as you don’t stop to think about it.