San Francisco Police Union Steps Up To Criticize Police Chief Over His Handling Of The Leak Investigation

from the seems-to-be-OK-with-raiding-a-journalist's-home,-though dept

This is fantastic. Not in the way something amazing and pure is fantastic, but fantastic in the way that only an oft-maligned profession feeding on itself can be. It could be lawyers or debt collectors or Instagram influencers. In this case, it's law enforcement.

Someone in the San Francisco Police Department tried to disparage a dead public defender/police critic by leaking a police report on his death. The person apparently on the receiving end -- stringer Bryan Carmody -- shopped it to a few local journalists. The SFPD decided the leak investigation should wend its way through Carmody's house. So, officers raided his place and walked off with $10,000-worth of laptops, phones, tablets, and other electronics.

Sidestepping the state's journalist shield law has not worked out well for the SFPD. After some momentary commiseration from San Francisco public officials, the SFPD is now surrounded by critics. And it's not just the normal critics. Even the District Attorney has publicly stated he doesn't see how this search could possibly have legal -- a surprising turn of events considering most prosecutors tend to support the local PD (or stay silent) when the PD fucks things up.

The chief of police has also issued an official apology for the actions of the officers he oversees. Chief Bill Scott turned over the leak investigation to an outside department and said the warrant obtained to search the journalist's home lacked "clarity" and was "concerning."

This public statement has led to criticism from another surprising source: the local police union. The SF Police Officers Association is unhappy -- not because of the raid itself, which it has no comment on -- but because Chief Scott threw officers under the bus rather than take responsibility for an investigation he was directly overseeing.

Yesterday, SFPD Chief William Scott showed everyone in the SFPD, and all San Franciscans, what his character consists of and it was a pathetic, deceitful and shameful display of self-preservation, finger pointing, and political kowtowing. We all deserve better.

The investigation into whomever disseminated the initial Adachi police report is a righteous one and whomever is responsible should be held accountable. What we know is that Chief Scott ordered that investigation. Chief Scott not only followed every twist and turn of the investigation but he knew every element of the investigation, directed the investigation and has clearly either come down with the most debilitating case of amnesia or is flat out not telling the truth about his direct involvement and the horribly flawed direction he gave to find the leak of the police report.

In either case, it is time for Chief Scott to go.

At least the union has gone on record that the officer who leaked the report should be punished. This will come in handy when the PD does decide to punish that person and the union inevitably starts protesting whatever punishment is handed down. But it's on point in its criticism of Chief Scott. If he was directly overseeing this, he had a chance to stop it before it became a national embarrassment.

Thus endeth the things I agree with here. The SFPOA remains wrong in its assessment of what's happening now. It claims turning this investigation over to an outside agency is a "diversion" and that Chief Scott should a.) be investigated, and b.) have the courtesy to resign before the investigation is over. Somehow, the SFPOA believes the PD -- with its untrustworthy Chief and its leaky officers -- should be trusted to police itself.

There will likely be additional angry statements from the police union as this investigation rolls on. The SF Chronicle reports a bunch of search warrants were served in this case, most of them targeting people the union never wants to see targeted by search warrants.

San Francisco police executed seven search warrants as they tried to find out who leaked a police report to a freelance journalist, including searches of officers and one of the journalist’s phone records, police officials and an attorney in the case said.

The search of phone records preceded the now-notorious May 10 raids on journalist Bryan Carmody’s home and office.

New info -- none of which is making the SFPD or its leadership look any better -- continues to trickle out. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions, as Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation points out. Many have to do with the warrant Chief Scott apparently approved, but couldn't recall the details of until everyone in the country was asking questions. It certainly seems the warrant wouldn't have been approved if judges knew it targeted a journalist, so there's a good chance this warrant contains crucial omissions or flat-out lies.

But the SFPD wasn't the only agency involved in the raid, detention, and questioning of Brian Carmody. The feds stepped in and the Freedom of the Press Foundation has its own list of unanswered questions:

  • Why did the FBI attempt to conduct an interview of Carmody after his house had been raided?

  • Why was the FBI involved in this case at all, since it dealt with a local matter?

  • Did the FBI follow its own guidelines involving an investigation into a member of the media?

  • Did the FBI gain access to Carmody’s equipment following its seizure and if so, did they search it, too?

As slowly as this is developing, it's likely the answer to these questions are many, many months away. This has made headlines around the nation over the past couple of weeks and the SFPD has yet to release the search warrant affidavit publicly. It has only recently gotten around to admitting the raid was likely unlawful.

The PD won't be able to keep everyone in the dark forever. The affidavit will be published eventually and then everyone else can see the stuff the police chief called "concerning" and "unclear." It will probably be both, but the public's unlikely to use these vague euphemisms. Until then, we can all enjoy the small amount of pleasure from watching the San Francisco law enforcement community attack itself, rather than members of the public.

Filed Under: bill scott, bryan carmody, journalism, police, sf poa, sfpd, warrants

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2019 @ 8:54am


    ... and, of course, now that there is widespread condemnation, the PD union sees the police chief as a convenient scapegoat. Not a lily white one, but still someone to unload guilt onto.

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