Suit Alleges Racial Bias in S.F. Drug Arrests

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San Francisco police officers targeted 37 African Americans with arrests for selling “small amounts of drugs” because of their race, six arrestees contended in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, Courthouse News Service reports. The arrests took place in a joint operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Attorney called “Operation Safe Schools.” The operation targeted drug dealers in the Tenderloin, a downtown neighborhood notorious for illegal drug use and sales, in 2013 and 2014. One officer involved in the arrests was caught on video voicing racist views about blacks. Another was seen refusing to buy drugs from an Asian person and instead waiting for a black woman to get off her phone so he could target her, the suit said.

After a judge granted a request to seek additional evidence of alleged racial bias in a criminal case, federal prosecutors abruptly dropped charges against 12 of the 37 people still fighting the charges in court. “Neither the police department nor the federal prosecutors provided any meaningful explanation for why these defendants had been targeted for arrest and prosecution over others similarly situated, or what compelled the sudden dismissals of the charges against them,” the suit says. The San Francisco City Attorney denied that officers selectively targeted African Americans during the operation. The goal was to go after people selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, a crime that comes with enhanced sentencing. About 46 law enforcement officers were involved in the operation, including 34 San Francisco police officers, 10 DEA officers, a U.S. marshal and a Daly City, Ca., police officer.

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