Sexual misconduct. Domestic violence. Name-calling.
These are among accusations against officers who have been in limbo at a windowless room called the Department Operations Center.
San Francisco police brass stash these officers in what for some is a detention center while figuring out whether to return them to the streets, fire them or continue keeping them there.
The process can drag on for years at great expense, held up in part by the special protections officers have under state law.
The alternative is to let them continue police work and put cases at risk because defense attorneys might bring up an officer’s questionable past. So these cops do clerical work that doesn’t often require the skills, training or pay of a police officer.
This week, an investigative series by The Standard explores the unit, which is the San Francisco Police Department’s version of a rubber room.
The series began with revelations that SFPD spent $1.2 million paying an officer to work at the Operations Center for six years after a teenager accused him of having sex with her in a car and using drugs.
The Standard found that police brass sent 57 officers to this unit by chief’s order since the beginning of 2016 at an estimated price tag of $17 million in total compensation.
Many of those officers face serious allegations.
Here are some of their stories.
In 2018, Darius Jones, an up-and-coming SFPD sergeant who spent time on the mayor’s security detail, was assigned to the Internal Affairs unit investigating his colleagues for alleged misconduct.
Then, his wife told the Concord Police Department that he hit her after she accused him of cheating.
Jones denied hitting her or having an affair. He said SFPD failed to interview all of the potential witnesses and rested the case on inconsistent claims from his now-ex-wife.
Chief Bill Scott did not believe him.
Scott stripped Jones of his badge and gun, and transferred him to the Operations Center for 10 months, before the Police Commission agreed to fire him in August 2020.
Jones believes the department wronged him. He’s now a security guard and hopes to find another job as a cop.
His ex-wife declined to comment.
Eric Robinson spent 14 months at the Operations Center, then quit in the face of career-threatening allegations.
In May 2018, Robinson was on bicycle patrol when a silent alarm went off at a hotel for formerly homeless people in the Tenderloin.
A hotel staffer told Robinson that one of the tenants—who used a walker—was off his medication and had attacked her.
Robinson confronted the man, who started swinging a bag.
But rather than call for backup from officers who specialize in crisis intervention, Robinson allegedly pushed the man, got on top of him after he fell and punched him as many as seven times.
“I really went super light on him,” Robinson told a sergeant at the scene, according to body-worn camera footage.
But a Department of Police Accountability (DPA) investigation found that Robinson used excessive force and misrepresented the truth.
The DPA recommended termination.
Robinson was sent to the Operations Center in April 2019 and retired the following June, before the Police Commission could hear his case.
He is among 20 officers sent by the chief to the Operations Center who ultimately left SFPD between 2016 and late 2022.
Attempts to reach him by phone and email were not successful.
Sgt. Michael Wibunsin is one of a dozen officers who spent more than 1,000 days at the Operations Center in recent years.
In 2014, he was implicated in a scandal where more than a dozen police exchanged racist, sexist, homophobic and antisemitic texts.
His current stint at the Operations Center did not begin until much later, following disputes over whether SFPD could punish the officers under special employment protections given to police under California law.
San Francisco’s police watchdog agency, the DPA, tried to fire Wibunsin in November 2018, the same month Scott sent him to the Operations Center.
But Wibunsin successfully sued, saying the city’s ability to make a discipline case had expired, and won his lawsuit in August.
Wibunsin remained at the Operations Center as of last week.
Records show SFPD has spent about $1.2 million paying him to work there for nearly four years.
Wibunsin referred The Standard to his attorney, who did not respond to inquiries.
Sgt. Marcial Marquez ended up in the Operations Center from his job as an instructor at SFPD’s Lake Merced gun range after reports he’d made a female recruit feel uncomfortable.
Marquez, who joined the department in 1998, nicknamed the recruit “Vegas” after she took a trip to Nevada. He also gave her a “challenge coin” meant for the best sharp-shooters, even though she hadn’t won a shooting drill.
Marquez said the nickname was a joke, and the coin was simply a recognition of her hard work and perseverance, court records show.
But SFPD command staff deemed the nickname inappropriate, and viewed his actions as having singled out the female recruit.
Marquez has been at the Operations Center since 2020. He’s suing SFPD in hopes of getting his job as firearms trainer back.
He and his attorney did not return requests for comment.
Michael Barba can be reached at email@example.com