Reinventing the past

The head of the park patrol has some explaining to do.

On his résumé, Santiago further boasts he "supervised and implemented the narcotics buy-bust program for street-level narcotics dealers in the housing projects."

What he didn't mention was that investigators discovered these busts were rife with corruption. Typically, an officer would testify that he had seen drugs fall from the hands of suspects, thus linking narcotics found on the ground to a defendant. This does sometimes happen: According to a 1990 East Bay Express story, 3 percent of the OPD drug task force arrests involved so-called dropsy cases during the 1980s. However, the story found, an OPD investigator analyzing a month's worth of OHAP drug arrests found an unbelievable 75 percent consisted of such cases. "They would go cruising in these cars, do an illegal search, and plant it on somebody," Gore confirmed.

Ex-OHAP officer Jeff Garden described drug busts to 60 Minutes: "We brutalized people. We stole their money. We planted drugs on them to take them off the streets," he said.

Santiago's San Francisco job application contains another unusual contradiction in the form of a 1995 letter from the Oakland Housing Authority stating that he resigned from the agency in November 1993.

However, a July 1993 Oakland Tribune article suggests he didn't resign, but rather was fired. The article, headlined "Housing Authority officer fired for using excessive force," said that Santiago was the subject of an internal affairs investigation into allegations he had misappropriated evidence and that he had been too rough with suspects. Santiago was given time to hire a lawyer and prepare a defense. In the end, the Tribune reported, the Oakland Housing Authority commission voted to uphold the firing. In response to a public records request, an Oakland Police Department official said that records from Santiago's case had been destroyed in keeping with the city's document retention policy. Carel Duplessis, chief of police services with OHAP, had not responded to a request for information by press time.

As a park ranger, Santiago isn't authorized to make drug arrests anymore. But his position nonetheless requires honesty and integrity. He oversees a security force that, like the similar-sized Oakland Housing Authority Police Department, is supposed to treat residents respectfully and lawfully. And he's responsible for divvying among himself and other officers overtime assignments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's a matter of honesty," Gore said. "The fact he did the stuff at the Housing Authority ... to the extent that it's a character issue, you don't want people with that character having any kind of authority."

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