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San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is calling on the San Francisco bench to investigate a report that police have not turned over complete disciplinary files to the courts, which could cast doubt on hundreds of criminal cases. Two former members of the San Francisco Police Department’s legal team say the department has kept disciplinary records on officers in different locations, with only one file being turned over to defense lawyers in response to defendants’ Pitchess motions. “The courts need to take swift action,” Adachi said. “In essence the police have been keeping what I would deem here a secret file.” Adachi said the revelation, reported in Wednesday’s Daily Journal, could affect potentially hundreds of cases because Pitchess motions are routinely filed in criminal cases by defense lawyers seeking to impeach police officers testifying against their clients. San Francisco Superior Court Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens said the court “does not yet have a response” to the claims. “As you might imagine, this is the first any of us have heard of this.” Hitchens said any action is likely to come through the court’s criminal division administrative committee, which meets every other Friday. However, she said, “this may require a discussion before then.” A spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department didn’t return calls seeking comment. District Attorney Terence Hallinan could not be reached for comment either, but everyone seems aware of the significance of the undisclosed files. “Oh boy,” said former Public Defender Jeff Brown, when informed of the development. “It’s a major blow up.” Incomplete reports could affect not only ongoing cases, but give criminals already convicted a basis on which to appeal. “You sure as hell could, because it’s withholding evidence,” said Brown, now member of the California Public Utilities Commission. Both Brown and Adachi said there was no chance that the failure to turn over complete files was merely a bureaucratic error. “They had to know that there was a separate file maintained,” Adachi said. “Why would they have this separate file? What was the utility of it?” Adachi said his office is undertaking a review of its cases. If necessary, Adachi said, he may end up asking the Board of Supervisors for additional financing for the resources necessary to expand his review. According to the story, the revelation derives from an investigation into the disciplinary file of Alex Fagan Jr., one of the officers involved in an off-duty brawl that led to District Attorney Terence Hallinan’s indictment of top police brass. Records were missing from Fagan’s file, which led two lawyers within the police department to investigate further. They found that material that could be considered disciplinary in nature was kept in files at local stations and never forwarded to the Hall of Justice. The two lawyers recently transferred off of the police department’s legal team. Sgt. Leanna Dawydiak, one of the two, said Wednesday that she had wanted to review more records to shed some light on the scope of the problem, but was met with ambivalence when she reported the problem to her superiors. “They either didn’t want to get it or they didn’t understand it,” Dawydiak said. “Being a lawyer is so important to me,” she said. “When it comes right down to it, if [defense lawyers] are entitled to something I’m going to give it to them. . . . The system doesn’t work if we illegally withhold things or, out of sheer sloppy record keeping, withhold things. “I feel terribly about this.” Police files are usually turned over to a judge for an in camera review in response to defense requests. The judge then decides what information to release to the defense. If the department knowingly withheld disciplinary files, each instance could constitute a contempt of court violation. “This completely calls for a major investigation as to how the police department responded to court orders for Pitchess motions,” Adachi said.

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