Police chief defends officers who released man suspected of trying to steal catalytic converter

The San Francisco police chief is defending his officers after they drew criticism for not arresting a man who was accused of attempting to steal a catalytic converter.

Newly released bodycam video shows officers assigned to the Richmond Station, detaining a man in the area of 24th and Anza streets at around 3 a.m.

Neighbors said the man was trying to steal a catalytic converter from a car in the area.

The car in question was a Honda that later turned out to be stolen. The car's catalytic converter was partially, but there was no evidence tying the man to the theft though officers had their suspicions.

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"This is very suspect. The window is down. The car is unlocked, and the cat (catalytic converter) is half cut," an officer can be heard saying on the video.

However, there was no proof the man was responsible, so officers let him go and gave him some paperwork.

"It (paperwork) says you were detained, but never arrested," the officer says on the video.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said officers did their job.

"These officers, from my review of this, took this as far as they could take it given what they had," Scott said. 

He underscored that there just wasn't enough evidence to tie the man to the incident. 

Scott explained, "We get there, we detain him. There are no tools on him. There's nothing to indicate he was the one cutting the catalytic converter.

The officers' computer systems were also down, so they couldn't positively ID the man or find the owner of the Honda.

Witnesses said they heard the sound of metal grinding.

"There were no power tools, no saws. They (officers) even check to see if there were any metal shavings and didn't find any of that," Scott said.

However, there was a jack lying on the street, which the man asked to take with him.

The man told officers the tool wasn't his and left it after an officer's suggestion.

"If you take it and it's not yours, it would be stolen correct? And then you'd be violating your own probation. You probably shouldn't take it," the officer said to the man.