San Francisco police Chief Bill Scott is in the hot seat after officers raided a freelance journalist’s home and office during the investigation of a leaked police report detailing the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
There’s anger over the leak but also anger over the search. On Wednesday night, the chief faced questions from the police commission.
“Are you confident the search warrant was issued in compliance with journalist shield laws and First Amendment protections?” Commissioner John Hamasaki asked.
“I am confident we took appropriate legal matters,” Scott replied.
Police showed up at Bryan Carmody’s home with a sledgehammer last week. Carmody says officers tried to break his front gate to serve a search warrant as part of SFPD’s investigation into the leaked police report.
NBC Bay Area has a long-standing relationship with Carmody and purchased video related to the story that included the report.
“Merely having a report leaked to him is not a crime,” legal expert Jeff Hayden said.
California’s Shield Law protects Carmody from revealing the source of the leaked report. The law provides legal protections to journalists who want to maintain confidentiality of an unnamed source or unpublished information obtained during news gathering.
The commission also questioned why SFPD obtained search warrants and not a subpoena for the document. Scott said Wednesday he has no plans to make a motion to have the warrants or affidavit unsealed.
Critics of the department are questioning the legality of the search and the focus of the investigation.
“Taking a sledgehammer to the door of a journalist is shocking and chilling, especially when the source of the leak is within the police department itself,” Dr. Derek Kerr said. “How does the commission verify and ensure the police department is acting legally and appropriately?”
The Public Defender’s Office says Adachi’s family does not want Carmody prosecuted. It wants the police officer responsible for the leak held accountable.
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