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.”
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.