Tenderloin foot patrol officers — not necessarily the officers named in the lawsuit — walk their beat at Civic Center Plaza. Photo by Emma Schwartz

The City of San Francisco has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that the San Francisco Police Department facilitated a drug sting that solely targeted African Americans in the Tenderloin and was driven by systemic racial bias. 

The operation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the SFPD in 2013 and 2014. It ultimately resulted in 37 African Americans facing criminal drug charges — 25 of whom pleaded guilty and 12 of whom had their charges dismissed after their defense argued that law enforcement officers were racially selective while conducting the operation.

The lawsuit was filed by seven people ensnared in the operation — Tiffany Cross, Tiana Reddic, Arron Mathews, Acacia McNeal, Shalonda Adams, Crystal Anthony and Darlene Rouse — in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, in October, 2018. 

They charged that the SFPD officers’ choices in targeting people for the operation was “motivated by race” and violated their constitutional rights. If the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approves the settlement in the coming weeks, the plaintiffs stand to receive a total of $225,000, or just over $32,000 apiece.  

“The stark pattern of racially selective enforcement borne out by the events of this case was a foreseeable result of the Police Department’s failure to track racial disparities, its inadequate training and supervision, and the tolerance of racism within the Police Department,” the lawsuit alleges. 

But San Francisco City Attorney’s Office spokesman John Coté said that the SFPD’s targeting of black people was not a product of systemic racial bias in the department. 

The federal government led this operation, and San Francisco police officers acted in accordance with federal directives,” Coté wrote in an email. “The San Francisco Police Department did not intentionally discriminate during this federal operation.”  

The lawsuit nonetheless argues that the opposite was true.

A video captured one officer passing up offers from an Asian female drug seller, and then waiting for an African American dealer to get off the phone. Per the lawsuit, “On the recording, the undercover officer explains that Ms. Roberts was not paying attention to him, but he got her attention and avoided the ‘Asian chick.’” 

Other video and audio from the operations captured officers making racially offensive statements. 

“Fucking BMs,” said Officer Daniel P. Rosania, referring to “black males,” while observing a group of black men walking on the sidewalk from the window. 

An officer, Ryan R. Crosby, who was next to Rosania, then told him, “Shh, hey, I’m rolling.” 

YouTube video

On a separate occasion, the lawsuit alleges, Crosby used racist and sexist language with two women, accusing one woman “stuffing shit in your pussy, bitch.” 

Another officer — Sgt. Darren Nocetti — told one arrestee that he had “better get [his] black ass off the block.”

The lawsuit alleges that the 14 officers named in the lawsuit were fully aware of “non-Black” people that could have been arrested in the operation because they were “involved in the arrests of similarly situated non-Black individuals for non-federal drug trafficking offenses in the Tenderloin during the same timeframe as the operation.” 

Those SFPD members are Sergeants Francis J. Hagan, Ronald T. Liberta, and Darren Nocetti, as well as officers Ryan R. Crosby, John Patrick Cunnie, Murray P. Daggs, Britt D. Elmore, David A. Goff, Thomas J. Lee, Kenneth R. MacDonald, Brenton Thomas Reeder, Daniel P. Rosaia, Anthony M. Scafani, and Daniel C. Solorzano. 

As of 2018, according to the most recent available city records, all of these officers were still with the department.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. it’s funny how they arrested so many people but yet and still the drug dealers that create the problems are still out there on the streets

  2. These Officers each deserve a medal. So what if they targeted a black-owned drug network? Glad the Feds did it, they should do more of it. Knock down all drug-networks and use the harshest federal charges possible. Now about that $32,000 settlement, please, oh please consider asset forfeiture District Attorney; you know these dealers owe a ton of court fees, restitution, and overdue child support. Oh, forgot, Kamala’s gone.

    1. ” So what if they targeted a black-owned drug network?” you ask?

      Well, there is the part about discriminatory police behavior being illegal.

      But fine, if that is ok with you, along with their tone towards the community relayed in the vulgar and degrading quotes referenced in the article, then I have pity for you and your soul.

  3. Personally I have lived in the tenderloin, as a black female this doesn’t surprise me. I have seen that the majority of drug dealers are black, what is so racist about the facts here, I was born and raised in San Francisco, I have witnessed so much upsetting stuff happening in the neighborhood, and there are also Hispanics selling dope as well, remember the Hondurans that carpooled selling Heroin in the tenderloin about 5 or 6 months ago, they would be standing around the streets all day and it is quiet obvious, but the majority has and probably always will be black. I couldn’t sugar coat it, because that’s like sweeping something I have seen up unto this day, under a rug. I laugh at articles like this, I know how blacks in America are and the ones who do not care about the community are those that sell their drugs to potential zombies, they could care less if any of their buyers ended up dead in their little SROs from a fatal overdose and it is just plain sad when you think about it. Do you know how many white vans I have seen over the past years picking up those that died in their apartments after being discovered through a wellness check. I remember one guy who was discovered 2 weeks later in his unit and the odor was the give away to his whereabouts. The cops were just doing their job, but even that becomes questionable, with everything I have seen for so many years, and their station is plopped right slab in the middle of the mess out there. I honestly see this as something blacks and hispanic should really have a look at and evaluate and not be in denial of what is going on in the communities we live in. We usually co exist in not so favorable condtions. Another reason it’s not uncommon to see blacks and hispanics selling is because they are usually the ones struggling to survive in the city and this, in their view is a way to generate earnings, but it always comes with a risk.

      1. Is that all you have to say, are you implying that I am not black because of my name. You are definately lost. You probably did not even read about my experience living in the Tenderloin. I speak from what I have seen and how much of what I have seen has impacted me on a personal level, drugs have ruined communities and peoples lives, especially in poor communities it just makes things a whole lot worse. If there is one thing I will not stick up for is black men and women making it unsafe for other blacks trying to live in peace and better their lives. You obviously never had that experience, sticking up for people of your own race just because they are the same race as you is illogical, especially if they are the ones bringing the community down through drugs and other horrible crimes.

  4. “As of 2018, according to the most recent available city records, all of these officers were still with the department.”

    Too bad we don’t have a zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior in the SFPD.

    They have no business ‘protecting’ and ‘serving’.