San Francisco police chief says raid on journalist’s home may have violated California shield law

Posted at 10:28 PM, May 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-26 00:28:32-04

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott called for an independent investigation Friday into the department’s handling of leaked documents and the subsequent raid of a journalist’s home.

Freelance journalist Bryan Carmody obtained a confidential police report that included information about the February death of prominent San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi. Carmody, 59, refused to tell authorities how he obtained the documents in April. During a raid of Carmody’s home weeks later, officers seized his computers, cameras, phones and notebooks.

Days after the May 10 raid, Scott said at a news conference there is a criminal investigation into whether Carmody was an “active participant in the commission of the criminal acts beyond his role with the news media.”

Despite those comments, Scott released a statement Friday saying the department is seeking an “independent, impartial investigation by a separate investigatory body.” Scott said he was 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,” Scott’s statement read. The shield law protects journalists from being held in contempt for refusing to reveal their sources, according to The Society of Professional Journalists Northern California.

Scott’s statement also said the Department of Police Accountability will investigate both the search warrant that was executed on Carmody’s home and the release of the Adachi police report. The department, Scott said, under the oversight of the San Francisco Police Commission, will also review protocols involving members of the news media.

“We must do a better job,” Scott said. “Journalists and everyone in our city deserve a police department that will maintain the constitutional rights of all.”

Police Officers Association calls for Scott’s resignation

Scott said the investigation came at the request of San Francisco Mayor London Breed. The mayor initially supported the raid, but later tweeted, “The more we learn, the less appropriate it looks to me.”

“A free and independent press plays a crucial role in our society, and we have to work harder to honor not only the letter of California’s Shield Law, but also the spirit of it,” Breed tweeted May 19.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association called for Scott’s resignation Saturday because the organization said he ordered the investigation into Carmody and is now trying to throw the officers who carried out the raid “under a double-decker bus.”

“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 statement read.

The statement said Scott didn’t tell the sergeant who signed the search warrant for Carmody’s house about his status as a journalist. The POA statement also said Scott’s apology “was clearly meant for him to save face as opposed to accept responsibility for his own actions.”

“He should be immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement read. “During that time, he should muster up the personal fortitude to do the right thing and resign.”