San Francisco Sheriff’s Deputies Alleged to Have Arranged and Gambled on Fights
The FBI is investigating whether San Francisco sheriff’s deputies gambled on fights between inmates while in jail. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced the probe on Friday, saying that the department’s Internal Affairs Unit, the FBI, and the US Department of Justice are investigating whether crimes were committed.
The allegations came to light in late March, when Jeff Adichi, a local public defender, claimed that four deputies at the County Jail had threatened inmates with violence if they did not fight each other. This led to charges that the deputies had arranged fights, gambled on the contests, and insisted that inmates should lie if they needed medical attention stemming from the fighting.
Sheriff Asked for Federal Investigation
This week, Sheriff Mirkarimi sent word to the Department of Justice asking them to head an independent investigation. The sheriff wants an investigative process which clears the department as a whole of involvement in the incident and instead focuses on the four deputies who are charged to have been involved.
Mirkarimi said to reporters, “I am pleased the feds have granted my request. They can lead an impartial investigation without conflict of interests. Call it a pre-emptive strike or call it preventative medicine, but my request to the U.S. Department of Justice underscores my determination to not allow any person or clique to deter or derail our reforms toward greater transparency and accountability in and outside the jails.”
Investigation to Take Two Weeks
The sheriff stated he expects the investigations to be completed in about two weeks time. At present, the names of the four deputies alleged to have arranged the fights have not been released. Also, it is not said how much money was wagered on the fights, though the numbers might have been relatively small.
The allegations first were made by Jeff Adichi to San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr. Police Chief Suhr says his department is investigating whether any criminal wrongdoing took place. If it is determined that the allegations are true, then several city, state, and federal laws are likely to have occurred. Not only will criminal cases likely stem from the investigations, but civil rights lawsuits also might take place.
Another Deputy in Trouble
During the same press conference, Sheriff Mirkarimi announced a $5 million arrest warrant for Alexander Santiago-Gonzales, who escaped the San Francisco County Jail while being held for trial on federal drug charges.
Santiago-Gonzales had been indicted as a narcotics trafficker prior to his escape. The prisoner had been allowed by a sheriff’s deputy to “take out the trash” on March 23, when Santiago-Gonzales effected his escape. Such actions are against department policy, and are thought to have directly led to the prisoner’s escape.
The deputy who allowed the narcotics trafficker to escape has been placed on administrative leave. Also, the termination process has been started to see that deputy no longer has a job at the County Jail. At present, Santiago-Gonzales remains at large and might well have the resources to flee the country.
2014 and 2015 have been a difficult time for America’s law enforcement personnel. The time of troubles began in August 2014, when 28-year old Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year old black man who had just robbed a convenience store.
Officer Wilson was called to the scene, where he found Brown and another man walking down the middle of the street, blocking traffic. Wilson and Brown had an altercation and the officer fired off his pistol. This caused Brown to run, and he was pursued by Wilson. The policeman fired multiple times at Brown, but all shots which hit struck him in the front, suggesting he had turned to confront the officer. Eyewitnesses suggested he was moving toward the officer when the fatal shot was fired.
Riots and Protests
This account quickly was contradicted in the national media, which suggested the officer had shot the suspected criminal while he fled. When Darren Wilson was acquitted of wrongdoing, riots ensued and national protests were launched. In many ways, those protests continue to this day, as a number of subsequent incidents have been filmed by smartphones and posted on the Internet. This has left police feeling embattled, just as it has left ethnic minorities believing they are being persecuted.
Sheriff Mirkarimi’s calls for multiple investigations no doubt take account of the current milieu in the United States.
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