After initially defending his police officers, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott recently held a press conference questioning the due diligence of his officers and later apologizing for raiding a journalist’s home with sledgehammers. Although Chief Scott has not directly apologized to the journalist, the police chief has agreed to allow outside agencies to conduct investigations into the actions of his officers.
On May 10, San Francisco police officers acquired a sealed search warrant permitting them to investigate the home and office of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody. Arriving at his residence with sledgehammers, police raided Carmody’s house, placed him in handcuffs, interrogated him, and took his electronic devices, including his computer, camera, and cellphone.
In a statement released on Friday, Scott admitted, “I am specifically concerned by a lack of due diligence by department investigators in seeking search warrants and appropriately addressing Mr. Carmody’s status as a member of the news media. This has raised important questions about our handling of this case and whether the California shield law was violated.”
California shield law prevents police officers from forcing journalists to reveal their sources or turn over unpublished content, including computer files, notes, pictures, and recordings. Even though Carmody’s warrant remains sealed, police have accused him of stealing or paying for reports related to the death of public defender Jeff Adachi.
Carmody denies illegally acquiring Adachi’s police report, which stated that the former public defender died as a result of an accidental overdose of cocaine and alcohol. Adachi was an outspoken critic of the police department, and many believe that officers leaked the details of Adachi’s report in an attempt to smear his character after his death.
During an interview published on Friday, Scott told The San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m sorry that this happened. I’m sorry to the people of San Francisco. I’m sorry to the mayor. We have to fix it. We know there were some concerns in that investigation, and we know we have to fix it.”
In a joint response to Scott’s apology, Carmody’s attorneys, Ben Berkowitz and Tom Burke, stated, “Having represented Bryan in this action, we are pleased to see that Chief Scott apologized to Mayor Breed and to the people of San Francisco. We think he owes an apology to Mr. Carmody also.”
“I’m calling on them to come out and clear Bryan’s name with a statement that he has engaged in no criminal activity whatsoever,” Berkowitz added. “One of the things I’ve found so offensive about the San Francisco Police Department’s conduct is it picked on an independent journalist. They wouldn’t have dared break down The San Francisco Chronicle’s door.”
“The residents of San Francisco, our Mayor and City leaders, the news media and the hardworking men and women of the police department deserve better,” Scott conceded in his recent statement. “We understand that faith in SFPD has been shaken and we will work hard to restore it.”
Carmody’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the warrants against their client. Due to the fact that the warrants are under seal, the probable cause justifying the search warrants remains unclear.