San Francisco cops tried to exert their muscle by raiding the home of a journalist in an attempt to identify a confidential source earlier this month.
But the plan backfired and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott was forced to apologize and called for an independent investigation into how police were able to manipulate a pair of judges into signing two warrants.
However, the chief was singing a different tune after the May 10 raid, saying, “we went through the legal process and the appropriate legal process for a criminal investigation.”
But he was wrong.
The glaring issue is that police did not specify to the judges that the man they were planning on raiding was a journalist when presenting the search warrants, which may have given the judges reason to pause considering California has a shield law that protects journalists from revealing their sources.
But it's also obvious from stories we read daily that judges tend to rubber stamp search warrants without any degree of inquisitiveness so that may not have made a difference.
However, even after raiding the home of freelance news videographer Bryan Carmody, then raiding his office, seizing his cameras and computers, it does not appear they found what they were looking for.
But it ignited a two-week firestorm with both California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed expressing outrage with the mayor saying he was "deeply disappointed" and calling the actions of police "unacceptable."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
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California’s shield law protects journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources or hand over unpublished information including notes, recordings and pictures.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.
The cops were trying to identity the person, possibly a police employee, who leaked the death report of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who died in February under mysterious circumstances in an apartment that did not belong to him with a woman who was not his wife.
Adachi, 59, was a frequent critic of abusive cops and an advocate for criminal justice reform. Police were apparently upset they were not called to the scene where Adachi died until three hours after the paramedics had arrived.
Initial reports stated Acachi died of a heart attack but an autopsy released a month later stated the heart attack was caused by cocaine and alcohol that he willingly consumed.
Now that Chief Scott is no longer blindly defending the officers, he tells us the cops were in violation of departmental policy by not consulting with the district attorney's office beforehand.
But evidently this is common practice if two judges signed the warrants.
The attorney representing Carmody, Thomas Burke, said the cops violated both state and federal laws.
The judges who signed the warrants, Victor Hwang and Gail Dekreon, have not commented but as judges, they would have been very familiar of who was Adachi.