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FBI opens investigation into SFPD warrantless searches

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The FBI has launched a civil rights investigation into six officers caught on video allegedly raiding residential hotel rooms without search warrants.

Officers Arshad Razzak, Richard Yick, Robert Forneris, Raul Elias, Raymond Kane and Arthur Madrid are already the subject of an internal SFPD probe as well as an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office. At least three cases have been dropped or thrown out of court because video evidence appears to contradict police reports written after the fact.

On Friday, interim police Chief Jeff Godown told reporters that the plainclothes operation of Southern Station would be suspended until the Department had time to review the procedures and practices of nonuniformed police officers.

He made it clear that the problem was isolated to Southern Police Station, and that plainclothes operations would continue in the other nine police stations.

“The FBI has opened an investigation,” Godown said. “They will handle any allegations of civil rights violations.”

FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn confirmed the investigation but would not elaborate.

The allegations first surfaced Wednesday when Public Defender Jeff Adachi released videos of two separate narcotics busts at a South of Market residential hotel. One video shows officers bursting into a room without knocking on the door while another shows Yick covering up the surveillance camera with his hand.

The police reports paint a completely different picture, Adachi said. A third case was dismissed on Thursday.

The District Attorney’s Office is conducting a search for other cases involving the six officers, according to spokeswoman Erica Derryck. The office will then decide whether to dismiss those cases or to proceed with a prosecution.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com