‘I’m sorry’: Scott con­cedes of­fi­cers botched probe of jour­nal­ist’s home

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Ser­noff­sky

After two weeks of grow­ing out­rage, San Fran­cisco Po­lice Chief Bill Scott apol­o­gized Fri­day for raid­ing a jour­nal­ist’s home and of­fice in a bid to un­mask a con­fi­den­tial source, ad­mit­ting the searches were prob­a­bly il­le­gal and call­ing for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the episode.

Po­lice “should have done a bet­ter job,” Scott said in an in­ter­view with The 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.”

Scott said he has now re­viewed all ma­te­rial re­lat­ing to the May 10 search of free­lance videog­ra­pher Bryan Car­mody’s home and of­fice, which was part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into who leaked him a sala­cious po­lice re­port on the Fe­bru­ary death of Pub­lic De­fender Jeff Adachi — a re­port Car­mody then sold to three tele­vi­sion sta­tions.

The chief said he was “con­cerned” that the ap­pli­ca­tions for the search war­rants didn’t ad­e­quately iden­tify Car­mody as a jour­nal­ist — par­tic­u­larly a war­rant to search his phone.

Cal­i­for­nia’s shield law pro­tects jour­nal­ists from be­ing forced to re­veal con­fi­den­tial sources or hand over un­pub­lished in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing notes, record­ings and pic­tures. It specif­i­cally bars po­lice from ob­tain­ing this sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion through searches.

Scott said the de­part­ment will drop its in­ves­ti­ga­tions and turn them over to in­de­pen­dent agen­cies. The de­part­ment re­lin­quished a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the leak, which could prompt charges, and an in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which could lead to dis­ci­pline for of­fi­cers. It’s not clear who will step in to in­ves­ti­gate the crim­i­nal side, but he said the city De­part­ment of Po­lice Ac­count­abil­ity — an in­de­pen­dent over­sight body cre­ated to look into com­plaints against po­lice — has agreed to in­ves­ti­gate any ad­min­is­tra­tive vi­o­la­tions.

The chief said Mayor Lon­don Breed had re­quested the in­de­pen­dent probe. He also said the de­part­ment will not use any ev­i­dence seized in the raids and will not turn it over to other in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

In a state­ment Fri­day, Breed said she was glad the chief “ac­knowl­edged the de­part­ment's mis­takes and apol­o­gized,” but was “deeply dis­ap­pointed by the ac­tions taken in this case up to to­day. This is un­ac­cept­able and we have to do bet­ter.”

“The ac­tions be­ing taken to­day are the right thing for the de­part­ment and for the city,” she said. “We have to re­store the trust among the de­part­ment, the pub­lic, and the me­dia. An in­de­pen­dent and free press is es­sen­tial in our city and our so­ci­ety.”

Scott’s po­si­tion on Fri­day was a re­ver­sal of his ear­lier pub­lic com­ments on the raid, which sparked out­rage lo­cally and na­tion­ally from law­mak­ers and press-free­dom ad­vo­cates. Gov. Gavin New­som and U.S. Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris on Thurs­day joined in con­demn­ing the po­lice ac­tion.

Su­per­vi­sor Hil­lary Ro­nen, who was the first of many on the Board of Su­per­vi­sors to crit­i­cize the raid, said Scott’s apol­ogy and the in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions are “ab­so­lutely the right thing to be do­ing.”

“I un­der­stand that it took him a cou­ple weeks, but the fact that he is un­equiv­o­cally apol­o­giz­ing and lay­ing out clear ac­tions that he’s tak­ing in re­sponse is what you would want from a leader,” she said.

Car­mody said he ob­tained a po­lice re­port from a con­fi­den­tial source shortly after Adachi’s death at age 59 on Feb. 22 be­fore sell­ing it. Some city of­fi­cials were out­raged over the leak and sus­pected some­one in the Po­lice De­part­ment was try­ing to smear the late pub­lic de­fender, who was a po­lice watch­dog and cru­sader against of­fi­cer mis­con­duct.

In a news con­fer­ence Tues­day, Scott said his de­part­ment had sus­pected Car­mody took part in a crim­i­nal con­spir­acy to steal an in­ter­nal po­lice re­port. Car­mody said he did not pay for the re­port or con­spire to steal it but sim­ply ac­quired it as part of his work as a jour­nal­ist.

A week ear­lier, Scott had de­fended the raid in front of the city Po­lice Com­mis­sion, say­ing, “We went through the le­gal process and the ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal process for a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

But on Fri­day, he said that wasn’t the case.

“One of the is­sues that I saw in this is in the ini­tial war­rants,” he said. “There’s one that’s par­tic­u­lar­ity trou­bling and con­cern­ing. The is­sue is the clar­ity in the war­rant. The de­scrip­tion of what his role en­tails as a jour­nal­ist — there should have been more clar­ity there. That is go­ing to be a con­cern that has to be ex­plored fur­ther.”

Car­mody’s at­tor­ney in the crim­i­nal case, Ben Berkowitz, said the Po­lice De­part­ment should “take steps to make sure this never hap­pens again.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

Po­lice asked Car­mody to re­veal his source in April. When he re­fused, of­fi­cers showed up with a sledge­ham­mer, bat­ter­ing ram and pry bar be­fore seiz­ing his com­put­ers, cam­eras and phones at his home and of­fice. They hand­cuffed Car­mody as well.

Scott said the of­fi­cers who ex­e­cuted the search did not con­sult with the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice be­fore ob­tain­ing the war­rants — a vi­o­la­tion of de­part­ment pol­icy. He’s also pledged to re­view de­part­ment pol­icy re­gard­ing war­rant ap­pli­ca­tions and tac­tics around po­lice searches.

“The look of that was not good,” he said “We look back on every sit­u­a­tion and we have to look at the tac­tics and we have to own up to things that we can do bet­ter and that’s def­i­nitely some­thing we can do bet­ter.”

Thomas Burke, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Car­mody on First Amend­ment is­sues, said po­lice vi­o­lated fed­eral and state law — in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s broad shield law that pro­tects jour­nal­ists. Burke, who has rep­re­sented The Chron­i­cle and its par­ent com­pany, Hearst Corp., in other cases, filed a mo­tion this week to quash the war­rants.

The war­rants were filed un­der seal, so it’s not clear what po­lice listed as the prob­a­ble cause jus­ti­fy­ing the searches. The judges who signed the war­rants, Vic­tor Hwang and Gail Dekreon, have not com­mented.

“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.” S.F. Po­lice Chief Bill Scott

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