The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office has accused a Latino police officer of racial discrimination against Latino drug dealers in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
According to public defense attorneys for one of the suspected drug dealers in the neighborhood, Sgt. Daniel Solorzano arrested 53 people for selling drugs over a period of approximately two years, all of whom were Latin American. During that time, they claim, he refused to arrest 43 other people the police had detained or monitored, all but two of whom were non-Latinos.
Solorzano is of Mexican and Nicaraguan descent and his first language is Spanish.
The motion filed by the public defender last March under the California Racial Justice Act requests “all records or memoranda relating to any investigation, by the SFPD or the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, into the enforcement activities of Tenderloin District Drug Sale Act”.
If the court accepts the allegation of “racial bias and animosity toward Hispanic or Latino people,” the suspects arrested by Solorzano could be released or have their charges reduced, and Solorzano could face disciplinary action, up to until dismissal.
Solorzano, who worked for 14 years with the San Francisco Police Department – 12 in the Tenderloin – is not giving media interviews and has been reassigned to a different detail pending the judge’s decision on his case.
“The Office of the Public Defender is targeting Sgt. Solorzano because he is a champion in the battle against the fentanyl death epidemic in San Francisco,” Solorzano attorney Nicole Pifori wrote in an email. “This year alone he has pulled over 18 pounds of drugs off the street. These motions are nothing more than a form of harassment aimed at deterring the police from protecting San Franciscans from the scourge created by fentanyl sales in the Tenderloin.
The motion further suggests that the district attorney’s office, then led by leftist Chesa Boudin, violated the law by charging the Tenderloin Latinos with more serious crimes than suspects of other races arrested for comparable offences. The public defender’s office declined to comment.
“The SFPD has a long-standing and ongoing problem with racial disparities in arrests,” said criminal defense attorney and former San Francisco Police Commission member John Hamasaki, who is running for district attorney. who will be elected in November. .
Solorzano defenders point out that almost all of the Tenderloin’s drug dealers are Latinos.
Most of the non-prescription drugs peddled in the Tenderloin are sold by Honduran nationality dealers recruited by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, earning at least $1,000 a day each, said Tom Ostly, a former prosecutor with the San Francisco district attorney’s office. . San Francisco is one of five US cities in which Honduran recruits supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel operate, he said.
“Maybe it’s the cartel that’s being racist for only hiring from one ethnic group and one national origin,” Ostly said. “When the defense used to argue that a particular race was being targeted, I would suggest they contact the Sinaloa Cartel and tell their HR department that they need to implement a more robust diversity plan. that aligns with San Francisco values.”
As for the 43 people Solorzano did not arrest, the Public Defender was only able to identify five of them by name and acknowledge that all five were users who possessed drugs for the dealers – an offense well less than traffic. The public defender could not identify the names or crimes of the remaining 36 people who had not been arrested.
“We don’t control who’s selling drugs in the Tenderloin,” added Lt. Tracy McCray, an SFPD officer and president of the city’s police union, who grew up in San Francisco. “I was a teenager in the 80s. We had white and black merchants selling in the Tenderloin. Now, today, they are Latino drug dealers. What do you want us to do? We do not pick and choose.
Ostly, who has prosecuted dozens of drug dealers in the Tenderloin, including those arrested by Solorzano, said Solorzano is a compassionate officer who is friendly to those he arrests and works hard to resolve issues in ways that avoid incarceration. Ostly said Solorzano will regularly try to help dealers find other sources of income.
“It was obvious that he also cared about the welfare and future of the dealers,” Ostly said.
McCray, who also worked alongside Solorzano when the two were assigned to the city’s Bayview station, praised Solorzano’s work ethic and professionalism. She is outraged by the accusations of racism.
“I’m black,” she said. “I grew up in a black community. If you hurt, you hurt. It doesn’t matter what race you belong to.
McCray thinks the public defender’s office is trying to “weaponize a law and craft it for its own use” to get drug traffickers off the hook. She says it’s the district attorney’s and city attorney’s responsibility to defend Solorzano, but “it’s up to us (the union) to do their job to defend him — and we will.”