Complaint Board Finds Police Officers Violated Policy By Arresting Public Defender Who Demanded They Stop Questioning Her Clients

from the and-not-a-single-officer-was-disciplined dept

More than a year after San Francisco police officers arrested public defender Jami Tillotson for doing her job, the city's Office of Citizen Complaints has issued its report. It clears Tillotson of any wrongdoing and lays the blame solely at the feet of the San Francisco PD.

First, a quick refresher, since we're discussing something that happened last January: Tillotson's clients were approached by police officers in a courthouse hallway. The officers began asking her clients questions and photographing them for a photo array. She inserted herself between the officers and the men and demanded the officers stop questioning them/photographing them without running it through her. The officers responded in the only way they knew how: they arrested her for resisting arrest -- an arrest in which she cooperated fully with no amount of resistance. (It seems like circular reasoning, but "resisting arrest" is a catch-all for other sorts of interference with police work, rather than simply resisting an arrest.)


Thirteen months later, the review board has this to say about the officers' actions.
Police arrested Jami Tillotson without cause in January 2015 and detained her in an "unduly prolonged manner without justification," the Office of Citizen Complaints concluded.

The agency also determined that there was found a policy failure on two allegations: interfering with the right to counsel and conduct reflecting discredit on the department in the case of an officer who made inappropriate comments to the media following the incident.
The report was released by the public defender's office because presumably the SFPD had no plans to. In fact, the police chief -- despite dismissing charges and apologizing to Tillotson -- still insists his officers did nothing wrong.
[H]e stood by the actions of Sgt. Brian Stansbury and the other officers who arrested Tillotson. Stansbury "had reasonable suspicion to take the pictures” and a right to do so in a public area, the chief has said.
Maybe so, but the complaint review board says otherwise. his officers may have had the "reasonable suspicion" to take pictures, but they clearly didn't have the right to continue to do so after being told not to by an officer of the court (the public defender), much less prevent her from doing her job by arresting her.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 3:53pm

    Presumably Ms Tillotson is going to get a nice big chunk for unlawful imprisonment, amongst a whole host of other laws the "fine" officers of the SFPD broke.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 6:58pm

      Re:

      Presumably Ms Tillotson is going to get a nice big chunk for unlawful imprisonment, amongst a whole host of other laws the "fine" officers of the SFPD broke.

      Ha! Not likely. Even if she did, it would be the taxpayers who would have to pay, not the cops involved.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 7:48pm

        Re: Re:

        A public defender collecting a settlement from taxpayer funds?!?! Insanity!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 8:39pm

        Re: Re:

        The tax payers should pay.

        They are the ones sitting on their asses as they do nothing to stop this bullshit.

        I am sick and fucking tired everyone acting like the taxpayer is somehow not responsible for the fucking assholes in charge.

        When the taxpayer is done paying they will vote in someone that promises to clean up the police, until then... they will just keep voting in those "tough on crime" assholes that like to employ those that like to stomp around in their "Authority" jackboots.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 4:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I am sick and fucking tired everyone acting like the taxpayer is somehow not responsible for the fucking assholes in charge.

          And so you take personal responsibility for every action your government takes, eh? Great, please post your personal contact information.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 6:44am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Another example of victim blaming.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anomynuos Crowad, 24 Mar 2016 @ 6:45am

          Vote Harder!

          Right... and after all this time we're in the mess we're in because people simply haven't been voting hard enough? As the old saw goes, if voting actually had a chance of changing anything, they'd have outlawed it by now.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 7:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The tax payers should pay.

          This is entirely the problem. The taxpayers do pay - over and over and over again.

          Until the police start facing jail time (which admittedly, the tax payers will also pay for), this behavior will continue.

          If jail is supposed to be a deterrent, then perhaps it's time to start applying it to police, who in theory are supposed to know better.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Zonker, 24 Mar 2016 @ 2:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          When the taxpayer is done paying they will vote in someone that promises to clean up the police...
          And that someone will break that promise the moment they step into office. You honestly think the voters have a choice of real candidates who will represent them rather than corporations and unions? That is not the American way.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 23 Mar 2016 @ 3:54pm

    She never should have been arrested in the first place and of course the police abused their powers.

    The fact that bothers me is that the police arrested her because they didnt like her sticking up for her clients and they full well knew she was within her right in acting as the defendants counsel and that this was taking place outside of the courtroom.

    So Police decided to play the heavy card and arrest her, and this was plain and simply abuse of power. There are certain elements of the police that seem to think they can do and say what they want and when questioned on it, abuse the powers of arrest and trumped up charges to justify their illegal acts.

    It's the police officers stupidity in this case that if this lady sues, you can bet she will end up with a settlement because how can the police say this was justified especially when there were a hall full of witnesses and someone who happened to video record it.

    I doubt this will be the first or last time we see something like this happen, seems nowadays peoples rights are being trampled with impunity

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 3:59pm

    Suing the police department will accomplish absolutely nothing but to marginally increase the citizen's taxes.

    But as an officer of the court, can she not swear out and prosecute charges against the individual cops herself? A criminal conviction should be easy, and with a criminal record, they can no longer be cops, correct?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Christopher (profile), 23 Mar 2016 @ 5:43pm

      Re:

      There is this little thing called 'sovereign immunity' that most officers have and the police unions would rebel if this woman tried to sue the officers personally.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Kaemaril (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 3:42am

        Re: Re:

        Police officers certainly do not have 'sovereign immunity'. Are you thinking of qualified immunity?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 6:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Their actions, in many cases, cause forfeiture of their "immunity". In most of these instances the DA decides to not prosecute, and when asked comes up with some bullshit rationalization for them not doing their damn job.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Quiet Lurcker, 23 Mar 2016 @ 6:52pm

      Re:

      I should think the larger issue would be, could she petition the court for a contempt proceeding in that particular case, and how would the court handle such a thing. At the very outer limits of possibility, I suppose she might convince the judge to dismiss the case or at least disallow some of the evidence because of what the cops did.

      And if the cops and prosecutor both get a good dressing down in public and handed a substantial fine on top, so much the better. It might actually direct their attention to the fact they got it wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 11:05am

      Re:

      why? how?

      do police departments get to increase their budgets these days due to getting sued for breaking the law and violating rights too often

      didn't the citizens vote in the guy who's responsible for hiring these thugs?

      the buck stops with the citizens.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      Its absolutely time to start holding individual cops accountable for their criminal acts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 10:43pm

        Re: Re:

        'Personal responsibility'? What kind of madness is that, it's not like police choose what they do or have any control over their own actions, so punishing them for doing something wrong would be highly unfair.

        No, the only fair course of action is to punish someone else, I'm sure if you do that enough the police will learn their lesson, what with seeing someone else foot the bill for their actions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 25 Mar 2016 @ 12:25pm

      Re:

      > But as an officer of the court, can she not swear out and
      > prosecute charges against the individual cops herself?

      No, only the state's attorney can do that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 4:00pm

    In America the police are allowed to do whatever they want to whoever they want (as long as they don't do it to a higher ranking gov't official of course). If you don't like that fact you might as well leave cause that's never going to change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Mar 2016 @ 4:01pm

    So can she sue the department?
    They removed a lawyer from being able to provide assistance to her clients and put a black mark on her record she would have to report to the bar.

    If she can, can she name the chief personally?

    They over reached, and then compounded it by arresting her and he wants to ignore that part. Well they totally are allowed to take photographs in a courthouse... aren't there usually limits on photography in courthouses to try and protect witnesses & victims?

    It is sad it only took them a year to decide it was wrong, shall we hold our breath for any repercussions for the officers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Christopher (profile), 23 Mar 2016 @ 5:44pm

      Re:

      She can get the arrest voided from her record (i.e. expunged) but I seriously doubt that she is going to be able to swing any punishment for the officers in question here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 6:36pm

        Re: Re:

        Its the perfect insurance scam. Like accidentally setting a house on fire by splashing gas everywhere then lighting an incense cause of the smell. Paid! And it wasn't even your house!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 23 Mar 2016 @ 4:12pm

    I'm curious about this as well. While it's obvious they had no right to speak to her client or arrest her, what's the law on them taking pictures? Technically they are in a public place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 4:28pm

      Re:

      Regardless of anyone's right to photography in public, no one has the right to force you to pose for the picture. The issue was that the cop detained them to take the picture. That detainment was without a warrant or exigent circumstances.

      The 'reasonable suspicion(RS) to take pictures' is bullshit since RS is never needed to take pictures. Might as well claim RS because water is wet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 7:14pm

      Re:

      Those of us who are less equal are often prohibited from taking photos in a courthouse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Techno, 23 Mar 2016 @ 4:13pm

    And so...

    Does this Citizens Council have any authority? Is there any censure of the police?Any punitive actions? This sounds a lot like a paper tiger roaring with no real action. Police wonder why people are more accepting of violence towards them than in the past. If you're acting like a tyrant the citizens are going to respond like you're a tyrant and you lose your authority. Police seem to have forgotten that no one governs except by the power of those that they govern. There is no army large enough to subdue an entire people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 4:25pm

    runaway train. bound straight for hell. no stops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 5:25pm

    Iv held the suspicion for some time that a lot of these incidents are arranged by conspirators to collect insurance settlements. Iv even considered proposing to a LEO "hypothetically, if you knew someone would be walking their little puppy dog at such and such a place at such and such time, and all you have to do is show up, shoot the dog, pepper the person and arrest him for refusing to ID (easy case), and it would be a 60\40 split, would you consider that?"

    Have the ol "hidden" camera or streaming recording, keep your fucking mouths shut, and an hour of burning eyeballs with a weekend in jail could net 100k+.

    For a disgruntled cop that would be the ideal "severance package."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 12:01am

      Re:

      Just a few problems with that...
      1) 100k would barely cover legal costs. If you ignore the policeman's costs (as covered by the department), the 'plaintiff' would still be shelling out.

      2) The 'victim' in this scheme would have something over the cop. There's no guarantee the cop would actually get anything out of it. (qv The Maltese Falcon)

      3) The cop IS going to be watched, by media, by activists, by someone. The chances of the fraud going undiscovered are not small.

      4) He's a cop. If things go sour in all this, it might end up with bodybags. Really want to volunteer for something like that? Even for a huge payout?


      Even cops would not fall for that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 5:25pm

    Iv held the suspicion for some time that a lot of these incidents are arranged by conspirators to collect insurance settlements. Iv even considered proposing to a LEO "hypothetically, if you knew someone would be walking their little puppy dog at such and such a place at such and such time, and all you have to do is show up, shoot the dog, pepper the person and arrest him for refusing to ID (easy case), and it would be a 60\40 split, would you consider that?"

    Have the ol "hidden" camera or streaming recording, keep your fucking mouths shut, and an hour of burning eyeballs with a weekend in jail could net 100k+.

    For a disgruntled cop that would be the ideal "severance package."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 10:01am

    Dang

    Apparently in America you can now be arrested for making a duck face.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Mar 2016 @ 11:42am

      Duck face

      Apparently in America you can now be arrested for making a duck face.

      In the US you can be arrested for not duckfacing.

      You can be shot for either as well.

      Kinda like the Soviet Union or the late era of the Weimar Republic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Facepalm1, 24 Mar 2016 @ 11:10am

    So may people in Law Enforcement bemoan the lack of respect that exists for Police in the public these days. "Why don't you respect us? Why don't you respect the Law?" they ask.

    Yeah. Okay. Here's an idea: you go first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 1:14pm

    "the police chief -- despite dismissing charges and apologizing to Tillotson -- still insists his officers did nothing wrong"

    Well then nothing is going to change. Just more $$ from taxpayers to settle an injustice from an idiot cop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ALPHONSO DUNBAR, 24 Mar 2016 @ 2:03pm

    THE DOJ'S NEXT MOVE

    SO WHEN WILL THEY BE TERMINATED . . . AND WHEN WILL THE DOJ STEP IN AND PROSECUTE THEM FOR VIOLATING HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AS WELL AS THOSE OF HER CLIENTS? HMMMM?!!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 2:40pm

    I honestly hope someone beats the crap out of those dirty cops or maybe just cripple them. Since if they are not going to be punished at all it sends a very bad message to the citizens.

    If the law refuses to police itself people will start attacking police. Why obey laws when the murderers all wear badges.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 25 Mar 2016 @ 12:23pm

    Officer of the Court

    > Maybe so, but the complaint review board says otherwise.
    > His officers may have had the "reasonable suspicion" to
    > take pictures, but they clearly didn't have the right to
    > continue to do so after being told not to by an officer
    > of the court

    Being an officer of the court doesn't give a lawyer some super power or authority to give unilaterally binding orders to other citizens.

    She could ask the cops to stop questioning her client, but if they keep questioning anyway, the only consequence is that whatever the client says is inadmissible at trial.

    Likewise, the chief was correct-- just as citizens can legally photograph anything they want in a public place, so can the cops. Being told "stop" by a defense attorney doesn't strip them of that right, nor does that attorney's status as an "officer of the court" place her in a position of superior authority over the police.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ed K, 27 Mar 2016 @ 1:48pm

      Re: Officer of the Court

      They can take pictures in a public place, but they can't insist that their subjects pose for said pictures(!) without an arrest or a warrant.

      The lawyer didn't try to take away their camera, she just insisted that there was no need for her to get out of the way of the camera, or to allow them to interact with her client without her involvement. That seems very straightforward, and the cops were clearly in the wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 4:06pm

      Re: Officer of the Court

      if the lawyer can prove that the photos they took of her clients amounts to evidence angist them, a judge and law is supposed to prevent them from being used.but in this great country of ours,you can just predict the out come.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2016 @ 5:01pm

    Police State right there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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