Documents Show SFPD Ignored The Press Pass The Department Had Issued To Brian Carmody In Order To Place Him Under Surveillance

from the whatever-keeps-the-surveillance-going dept

As details continue to come out about the San Francisco Police Department’s raid of a journalist’s home last year, the more it appears as though there was a concerted effort by the PD to ignore both the First Amendment and the state’s journalist shield law.

From the beginning, investigators knew someone from within the police department had leaked a coroner’s report to Brian Carmody, a local “stringer.” But the department didn’t limit itself to tracking down its inside source. It placed Carmody under investigation, targeting his phone records, location data, and, finally, his home. The department’s chief, Bill Scott, spent two weeks defending the raid before deciding it was OK to blame officers for actions he explicitly improved.

Five warrants linked to the investigation have been tossed by the courts that issued them. Carmody has received a $369,000 settlement for his rights being violated. And more details continue to come to light, showing the department personnel involved never came anywhere close to operating in good faith.

Last month, it was revealed that the officers sent to raid Carmody’s home were instructed to turn off their body cameras. This allowed the PD to write its own narrative of the search without anything more neutral possibly exposing lies or omissions.

Fox affiliate KTVU is continuing to dig into this story and has uncovered even more damning information about the investigation of Carmody and the raid of his home. First, the SFPD was well aware (or should have been) Carmody was a journalist, and that targeting him for surveillance would be problematic and unconstitutional.

While pointing investigators to Carmody, the chief’s office failed to give the investigators a crucial detail: He had a valid press pass.

A reporter does not need a press pass to be protected by the Shield Law. But by issuing Carmody a press pass, the department recognized he was a working journalist.

This may have been an oversight. Or it may have been a deliberate withholding. But either way, the investigation began after the leaked report appeared on a local news station, which should have made it clear journalists were involved at some level and perhaps some due diligence was in order. It’s hard to believe the SFPD didn’t do an internal search of its own records first to dig up what they could about Brian Carmody before seeking search warrants.

That takes us back to the warrants. Five judges quashed the five warrants they had issued once news came to light that Carmody was a journalist. But there were seven warrants and the first warrants allowed the SFPD to, in essence, go back in time and put officers on Carmody’s tail.

Investigators then began writing a series of warrants – seven in all – allowing them access to the officers’ phone records, and Carmody’s geo locations and call information.

The Police Department used the locations to retrace Carmody’s steps around San Francisco in hopes of catching him and his source on video doing the handoff.

This led to two more warrants — the two that haven’t been tossed out by judges. These targeted four places Carmody had visited, including a restaurant and a coffee shop. Video recordings were obtained from all four but investigators were unable to find any footage of Carmody meeting with his police source. When this failed, cops staked out Carmody’s home for more than a month before seeking a warrant to search his home.

As for the warrant applications themselves, they were supposed to be reviewed by an assistant district attorney before being submitted to a judge. None of the seven warrants were submitted to the DA’s office. Unfortunately, this isn’t further evidence of a concerted effort by investigators to illegally target a journalist. This is just standard operating procedure for SFPD officers, who apparently rarely bother to follow the department’s rules.

But [Captain William] Braconi wrote that in his nearly two decades as an investigator “rarely if ever” did an assistant district attorney review a search warrant before it was submitted to a judge.

This is a very ugly mess. And it’s obviously not the only time the SFPD has broken internal guidelines and state laws to pursue investigations. If they were this comfortable pursuing a journalist over a report one of their own leaked, investigators have undoubtedly abused their power in smaller, less noticeable ways before. The more that’s uncovered about the case, the more it appears the city got off pretty cheaply by paying Carmody only $369,000.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Documents Show SFPD Ignored The Press Pass The Department Had Issued To Brian Carmody In Order To Place Him Under Surveillance”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Upstream (profile) says:


The leaked coroner’s report in question was apparently about the death of Jeff Adachi, a deputy public defender with San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Wikipedia quotes the coroner’s reported cause of death as:

acute mixed drug toxicity with cocaine and ethanol, with hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease as a contributing factor.

Apparently the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office would rather people think he died of natural causes, instead.

I am not sure why any of this information should be confidential in the first place, nor why the SFPD would go to such (apparently normal) lengths to harass the journalist to whom it was leaked. What does it matter to the cops that people know how a PD died? All I can think of is that the SFPD suspects that they have a rare "good apple" in their midst (the one who leaked the report to Carmody) and they are determined to do whatever they can to eradicate such an abomination.

Anonymous Coward says:

That is one reason to keep your cell phone encrypted and if using android another mode which causes your phone to wipe and reset after 15 failed password attempts

If the cops sei e your phone and try to brute force crack your password the phone will wipe and reset after 15 tries if this mode is turned on

Turning that "booby trap" mode on thwart attempts by police to brute force your password does not break the law in any of the 50 us states, 31 Mexican states, or 13 Canadian provinces.

In other words there are no criminal.statuyes you can be prosecuted under anywhere in canada , mexico, or the united states if they try to brute force your password and rule phone wipes itself and resets because of too many failed password attempts

And you need to do this in case you are ever arrested so cops cannot access your phone so they cannot get anything to.muscle you into a plea deal

With the overcimimalization of everything cop proofing your phone is a must

When I go on road trips I have my.phones security dialed up to insane so if i an asset forfeiture state like Michigan they will not be able to access my phone when get it back to the cop shop. With the phone encrypted and mode set for wipe and reset after 15 failed password tries my phone is 100 percent cop proof

There is no way to get to Canadas Wonderlamd from the west coast without driving through Michigan so when I go put my phone in full cop.proof mode so that if it it is seized by police in michigan they will not be able to access if it is seized

There is no way to get to toronto from the west coast without going through michigan so I dial up the security on my electronics to insane cop proof levels before I go

There is no criminal statute I can be prosecuted 7mder if my phone resets and wipes after too many failed password attempts

Sho Nuff says:

Re: The mayor needs to act - You are kidding. Right

A former Chief of Police’s son, a young “tuff” cop, abused a civilian and took his sandwich in a popular neighborhood a decade or so ago.

There was a trial resulting in his acquittal when clearly the son’s juvenile behavior was blatant and wrong.

Some things never change in SF.

One of the reasons I moved out of the City decades ago was intermittent harassment by SF’s finest, such as justifying my standing on the sidewalk in front of my place of employment. Also when walking home after a fourteen hour day at my shop at the wharf. Inspecting my bag of chocolate chip cookies for drugs. As law abiding tax paying ex-marine with a clean record I refused to tolerate random abuse. To be fair, there were a few good officers I encountered in the city. Quiet. Unsung.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

It's especially disturbing...

Carmody’s press pass was discarded. The order was heard to turn body cams off and not a peep from anyone about how this is all weird espionage shit.

No one even was surprised by it, as if this is routine, and the SFPD does black ups every day during its regular beat.

If ours was a nation in which all of law enforcement wasn’t captured by plutocratic interests, I’d think we’d want to seize all the SFPD’s documentation and find out what other black ops shit they’re doing that hasn’t made it into news. If there’s a police-department child-trafficking ring, I don’t want to find out about it after it’s been in operation for thirty years.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: It's especially disturbing...

That’s not the disturbing part.

"Last month, it was revealed that the officers sent to raid Carmody’s home were instructed to turn off their body cameras."

^That right there? That’s proof-positive evidence that the police knew they were screwed if what they did got caught on camera. And as they were instructed to do so it means the department Chief knew he’d ordered officers to do something so shady he couldn’t risk having it recorded.

What is truly jaw-dropping is that the DA is still not hauling the chief up on charges of obstruction of justice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's especially disturbing...

The "defund the police" ideas, currently floating around, seem radical till one reads about shit like this. Whether or not there’s a crime the DA can charge them with, there’s no way that any cop involved in this should be a cop anymore or ever again. Fire them all immediately, and if the union objects, make them defend those cops in court.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...