Former SFPD Officer Found Guilty of Accepting Bribes From Taxi Drivers

A San Francisco jury found a former San Francisco police officer guilty Monday of accepting roughly $25,000 in bribes over a two-year period ranging 2007 to 2009 from taxi drivers in exchange for a passing grade on a written exam required for a permit.

Paul Makaveckas, a 69-year-old Fremont resident and 36-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, was found guilty of two felony counts of bribery and could face five years in state prison, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

Makaveckas was assigned to the police department’s taxi detail for more than 20 years and was responsible for administering and grading the police department’s taxicab exams, which taxi drivers needed to pass in order to obtain a permit to drive a taxi in the city.

Evidence presented at the trial, following an FBI investigation, showed that Makaveckas would hold the exams on Thursdays at the San Francisco Hall of Justice and would accept bribes from a friend, William Hancock, who owned the Flag-A-Cab taxi school.

As part of the FBI investigation, on March 10, 2009 Hancock wore a wire and recorded a conversation during which he gave Makaveckas $500 in bribes in order to ensure that his taxi driver students passed their exams, according to the district attorney’s office.

Testimony during the trial revealed that Makaveckas accepted about $25,000 in bribes during the two-year period prior to his retirement in March 2009.

The jury found Makaveckas guilty of accepting bribes from Hancock on that date, as well as guilty of accepting bribes from prospective taxi cab drivers via Hancock during the two-year period leading up to the recorded exchange, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on two additional bribery counts.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, evidence in the trial showed that during the scheme Hancock would collect $100 from each taxi cab driver applicant who sought a guarantee that they would pass the exam. He would then hand over all of the money he had collected to Makaveckas, who was the police officer in charge of grading the taxicab exam.

Makaveckas is scheduled for sentencing on September 18.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement that Makaveckas abused his position of power.

“He was sworn to serve the public, instead he chose to serve himself,” Gascon said.

The District Attorney’s Office has not said whether the taxi drivers that passed under Makaveckas’ watch were required to retake their exams.

San Francisco Marathon Gains Olympic Qualifying Status

A future Olympian, or several, may be racing down the streets of San Francisco this weekend.

On Sunday, the San Francisco Marathon is celebrating being newly anointed as a sanctioned USA Track & Field qualifier race for the 2016 Olympic Team Trials.

“The new designation elevates The San Francisco Marathon’s level of competition, attracting top competitive runners and starting a journey that race spectators can follow through to the Olympic Team Trials and beyond,” San Francisco Marathon’s director of marketing Michelle LaFrance said in a statement. “It is an honor for San Francisco to be a city where Olympic dreams can be realized.”

The San Francisco Marathon, in its 38th year, is also adding a few new additions in order to ramp up excitement and engagement as well as commemorate the race’s new status.

One significant new feature is The San Francisco Marathon Race Weekend App, which is available now to download on iPhone and Android mobile devices, allows spectators to track runners live, access an interactive course map, live leaderboards, messaging, social sharing, and push notifications, race officials said.

A new “Finish Line Festival and Beer Garden” will be offered from 9 a.m.-noon, where runners and non-runners can enjoy beer and food truckfare.

Global live-streaming race coverage will also be taking place online for the first time this year on Race organizers said they are also encouraging viewers to participate in social media using the hashtag #TSFM2015, broadcasting these posts on the screens at the Finish Line Festival.

The San Francisco Marathon features a 5K, two half-marathons, a full marathon, and a double-marathon. It is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon and now the first USA Track & Field sanctioned marathon in the Bay Area, according to race officials.

“Every year, we strive to enhance the San Francisco Marathon for all participants-runners and supporters,” LaFrance said in a statement.

“[There] are major firsts for us this year and we look forward to a record turnout.”

Pier Killing Spurs U.S. Senate Hearing on Immigration Enforcement

Family members of a woman shot to death on San Francisco’s waterfront earlier this month allegedly at the hands of a Mexican national with multiple deportations will speak at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday.

The hearing, requested by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was scheduled to identify potential public safety issues stemming from the county’s immigration policies and comes three weeks after the death of 32-year-old Pleasanton native Kathryn “Kate” Steinle, who was fatally shot on July 1 while walking on Pier 14 with family members in broad daylight.

Grassley has invited the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to testify after members of the Steinle family have had a chance to address the senators.

Within an hour of the shooting, police arrested Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times and has seven prior felony convictions, including four involving narcotics.

Lopez-Sanchez was released from San Francisco County Jail in April despite a request from ICE personnel asking the sheriff’s department to detain him so that ICE field agents could take him into custody and carry out Lopez-Sanchez’ sixth deportation.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s refusal to hand Lopez-Sanchez over to ICE has prompted a national conversation about public safety hazards under current immigration policies.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and sheriff’s department attorney Freya Horne maintain that cooperating with the ICE request would have violated San Francisco’s Sanctuary City and Due Process for All policies as well as the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Mayor Ed Lee has said that he wants the city to cooperate with ICE in the future.

Mirkarimi said his department could only cooperate with the ICE requests if the city’s laws change. Mirkarimi has subsequently called on the Board of Supervisors to hold a hearing to discuss the policy issue.

Immigrant rights activists, however, say that requiring local law enforcement to comply with ICE requests has been ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

Activists say such policies threaten the trust that local law enforcement agencies have built with immigrant populations, who previously have chosen not to report crimes or cooperate with investigations in fear of being handed over to immigration officials.

Immigration activists also argue that Lopez-Sanchez does not represent all U.S. immigrants and that he instead represents someone with potential mental health issues and a possible drug addiction who has not received the help he needs.

But Republican U.S. senators, including Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have said that San Francisco’s sanctuary policy allowed Lopez-Sanchez to walk the streets.

Grassley said he found it disturbing that government documents showed more than 8,800 detainer requests issued by ICE were declined by local law enforcement agencies in 43 states during a nine-month period last year, and that 62 percent of the declined detainers were associated with individuals convicted of crimes or individuals who “presented some other public safety concern.”

He said, “San Francisco isn’t the only one to shoulder blame here,” arguing that the Obama Administration is also at fault. He maintains that the Obama Administration has not addressed local law enforcement policies that contradict U.S. immigration policies.

The Department of Homeland Security has launched Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), a new policy seeking to cure probable cause issues surrounding detainers by requiring ICE to ask local law enforcement agencies for notification of an individual’s release date, instead of detainers, so that immigration officials can arrest, detain, or remove undocumented immigrants.

Some Republican senators have criticized ICE for not requiring local agencies to participate in or comply with all aspects of the new program.

Tom Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and chief of the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland, said it is important to strike a balance. He said Montgomery County, unlike San Francisco, is participating in PEP and said he is optimistic that it won’t interfere with local law enforcement’s relationship with the immigrant population.

PEP, Manger said, requires the county to notify ICE only when specific individuals who ICE determines to be a threat to public safety, national security or border security are in local custody.

Manger said local law enforcement shouldn’t have to deal with immigration enforcement and that such policies hinder investigations and are counterproductive to local law enforcement goals of increasing public safety.

Grace Huang, public policy coordinator at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that any new immigration policies must be sure to keep law enforcement accessible to undocumented immigrants.

“When victims are afraid to come forward, reach out for help, it means more people in our community are at risk and we all suffer the consequences,” Huang said.

Today’s Weather Forecast

Today will be mostly cloudy with highs in the mid 60s. Southwest winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.

Tonight will be cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows will be in the upper 50s. West winds will reach 15 to 20 miles per hour.

Wednesday will be cloudy with patchy fog in the morning. Highs will be in the mid 60s. West winds will reach around 15 miles per hour.

(News Roundup Via Bay City News)