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San Francisco Police Department Cutting Back on Enforcing Drug Crimes

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The San Francisco Police Department is reducing enforcement of drug crimes, according to The Wall Street Journal. The decrease in drug arrests reflects a shift to focusing on violent crime, the department says. The decline is also partly due to a 10 percent staff cut during the past two years, as well as a $600,000 reduction in state and federal grants for drug enforcement.

From January through mid-June, there was a 14 percent drop in drug arrests citywide, the newspaper reports. Crime fell 5 percent overall, and total arrests dropped 8 percent during the same period.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon regards drug possession as a health issue, instead of a matter for the criminal justice system, according to spokesman Alex Bastian. He said the District Attorney advocates for giving judges the discretion to charge simple drug possession cases as misdemeanors, instead of felonies.

The police department was mired in a scandal in 2010 when it was forced to shut down the city’s crime lab after a worker was accused of snorting evidence. The closing hampered the department’s ability to process drug evidence, and led to the dismissal of many cases.

Last year, defense lawyers found videos that appeared to show police misconduct in drug arrests, including making false statements on police reports and mishandling evidence. The District Attorney’s office said it dismissed more than 100 cases in which police statements appeared to be contradicted by the videos. About a dozen officers were suspended, and federal prosecutors began a criminal investigation.

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