Po­lice pressed over video of re­cent shoot­ing

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Vi­vian Ho

The po­lice shoot­ing of a man in San Fran­cisco’s Ocean View neigh­bor­hood has pre­sented the city force with its first ma­jor chal­lenge af­ter out­fit­ting of­fi­cers with body-worn cam­eras: de­ter­min­ing when the footage should be re­leased to the pub­lic.

At a town hall meet­ing this week, po­lice of­fi­cials pro­vided a de­tailed ac­count of what videos re­vealed about the Jan. 6 shoot­ing of an un­armed, men­tally ill man who al­legedly kicked and punched two of­fi­cers re­spond­ing to re­ports of a re­strain­ing or­der vi­o­la­tion.

But they re­fused to re­lease the footage it­self, as­sert­ing that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the shoot­ing of 42-year-old Sean Moore — who was ar­raigned Fri­day from a hospi­tal bed on charges in­clud­ing as­sault on a peace of­fi­cer — could be com­pro­mised. Such in­ves­ti­ga­tions can take sev­eral months, or longer.

The de­ci­sion came amid a push for po­lice re­form in San Fran­cisco, and it in­volves a cam­era pro­gram de­signed to pro­mote trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity. While po­lice said with­hold­ing the

video was still nec­es­sary, the move prompted out­cry from ac­tivists and sus­pi­cion about the po­lice ac­count of the con­fronta­tion.

“Where’s the video?” Betty Mackey of the Anti-Po­lice Ter­ror Project asked at the town hall, which was held Thurs­day evening a block from the scene of the shoot­ing. “You said you al­ready re­viewed it, and you gave us a sum­mary of it. Why are you not shar­ing the video with the pub­lic?”

In­terim Chief Toney Chap­lin told Mackey that the depart­ment would de­cide whether to re­lease the footage af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete, con­sis­tent with the body-cam­era pol­icy passed by the city Po­lice Com­mis­sion in June af­ter con­sid­er­able de­bate. Of­fi­cers be­gan us­ing the cam­eras in Au­gust.

The pol­icy states that the depart­ment’s goal is to re­lease record­ings “to the great­est ex­tent pos­si­ble,” but that po­lice can de­cline to re­lease video when dis­clo­sure would “en­dan­ger the safety of a wit­ness or an­other per­son in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, jeop­ar­dize the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, or violate lo­cal, state and/or fed­eral laws.”

The prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to crit­ics, is that mul­ti­ple in­ves­ti­ga­tions are launched af­ter po­lice shoot­ings — in­clud­ing crim­i­nal and in­ter­nal-af­fairs probes — and can take years, par­tic­u­larly in fa­tal shoot­ings.

And last week’s shoot­ing, the crit­ics noted, ap­peared to be iso­lated to an in­ter­ac­tion be­tween two of­fi­cers and the man who was shot, lim­it­ing the dan­ger that pub­lic cir­cu­la­tion of the footage would taint wit­ness ac­counts. The of­fi­cers have given ini­tial state­ments, and Moore is in cus­tody at San Fran­cisco Gen­eral Hospi­tal on $2 mil­lion bail.

But Sgt. Michael An­dray­chak, a po­lice spokesman, said au­thor­i­ties need to be care­ful.

“Our goal is to be as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble, but when there is an open in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we have to be cau­tious about what in­for­ma­tion is re­leased and the tim­ing of the re­lease of that in­for­ma­tion,” An­dray­chak said. “Mr. Moore has not yet been af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to give a state­ment. One of the con­cerns is we can’t have the video out there to taint his rec­ol­lec­tion if he wants to give a state­ment.”

The Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Records Act in­cludes an ex­cep­tion in which records can be with­held dur­ing a pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but “the most im­por­tant thing to un­der­stand is that is not a manda­tory ex­cep­tion,” said John Crew, a po­lice watch­dog and for­mer Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union lawyer.

“It is manda­tory only if it will jeop­ar­dize the in­tegrity of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said. “How would re­lease of this in­for­ma­tion jeop­ar­dize the in­ves­ti­ga­tion? Have the of­fi­cers been in­ter­viewed? Were there any other wit­nesses at 4 o’clock in the morn­ing whose ac­counts would be tainted by see­ing this video? If not, then there is no pol­icy jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for choos­ing to fol­low that ex­cep­tion.”

But Harry Stern, a Bay Area at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents po­lice of­fi­cers, said the depart­ment was right to hold off on re­leas­ing footage un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­pleted.

“In this town, po­lice pol­icy is be­ing driven by the ac­tivist class, who rep­re­sent a tiny frac­tion of the pop­u­lace,” Stern said. “Num­ber of YouTube hits shouldn’t be a fac­tor in de­cid­ing whether a shoot­ing is jus­ti­fied or not. Wait­ing un­til the con­clu­sion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is the best prac­tice.”

Other Bay Area po­lice agen­cies that equip of­fi­cers with body cam­eras have typ­i­cally de­clined to re­lease footage dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into in­ci­dents. How­ever, they have made ex­cep­tions, par­tic­u­larly in high-pro­file cases in which the video sup­ports of­fi­cers whose ac­tions are be­ing pub­licly ques­tioned.

The Ocean View shoot­ing hap­pened af­ter two San Fran­cisco of­fi­cers, one of whom An­dray­chuk iden­ti­fied Fri­day as Ken­neth Cha, re­sponded to re­ports of a re­strain­ing or­der vi­o­la­tion and en­coun­tered Moore at the front door of his home on Capi­tol Av­enue.

Cmdr. Greg McEach­ern said footage from the of­fi­cers’ cam­eras showed Moore yelling pro­fan­i­ties at the of­fi­cers through a locked gate as they tried to speak to him.

Moore even­tu­ally opened the gate to grab the re­strain­ing or­der pa­pers from the of­fi­cers, who were stand­ing be­low him on the front steps. An of­fi­cer de­ployed pep­per spray, McEach­ern said, and Moore kicked him in the face be­fore re­treat­ing into the house.

The other of­fi­cer called an am­bu­lance for his part­ner’s in­jury, as well as for the af­ter­ef­fects of the pep­per spray on both of them and Moore. Moore then re­port­edly re­opened the door, threw the pa­pers on the ground and walked into the street. The of­fi­cers told him he was un­der ar­rest, and one of­fi­cer struck him in the lower leg with a ba­ton while he was on the front steps, McEach­ern said.

Moore al­legedly punched that of­fi­cer, knock­ing him off the steps, and when he ad­vanced on the se­cond of­fi­cer, that of­fi­cer shot twice, McEach­ern said.

Moore has a his­tory of para­noid schizophre­nia that is known to of­fi­cers in the area, ac­cord­ing to fam­ily mem­bers. They said he was struck in the stom­ach and groin.

Af­ter be­ing shot, he re­treated into the house, and hostage ne­go­tia­tors spent an hour at­tempt­ing to coax him out be­fore a tac­ti­cal team en­tered to get him treat­ment, of­fi­cials said.

Crew said there was rea­son for the pub­lic to ques­tion the po­lice ac­count, and that po­lice had a chance to build trust by re­leas­ing the footage. McEach­ern’s ac­count of what the footage showed con­tra­dicted orig­i­nal re­ports pro­vided to the me­dia that the of­fi­cer shot Moore af­ter he grabbed one of the of­fi­cers’ ba­tons.

Com­pli­cat­ing the scru­tiny of the shoot­ing, the po­lice union used the in­ci­dent to blast the city Po­lice Com­mis­sion for its re­cent de­ci­sion to deny of­fi­cers less-lethal force op­tions such as carotid neck holds and elec­tric stun guns.

“The of­fi­cers de­ployed pep­per spray, but it was in­ef­fec­tive,” Po­lice Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Martin Hal­lo­ran said. “Dur­ing the con­fronta­tion, one of the of­fi­cers’ ba­tons ei­ther fell to the ground or was taken by the sus­pect.”

Crew said po­lice “gave out in­for­ma­tion that was in­con­sis­tent with what was on the body­cam­era footage and the (union) came out and put their spin on it. They need to get the ac­tual in­for­ma­tion out, and get it out sooner rather than later.

“The more you de­lay,” he said, “the more sus­pi­cion there will be of the depart­ment and the rea­son they have for de­lay­ing it.”

Amy Os­borne / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Res­i­dent Equipto Sato speaks out af­ter Cmdr. Greg McEach­ern dis­missed a ques­tion at a town hall meet­ing Thurs­day about an of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ing in the Ocean View neigh­bor­hood.

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