The political intrigue around the San Francisco Police Department, its union, and the leak of the Jeff Adachi files continues, and gets more convoluted by the day.
The latest is the statement by the president of the Police Officers Association calling on Chief Bill Scott to resign. It’s a remarkable document, and while a lot of news media have covered in as a simple news item – “SF police union calls for chief to resign” – the actual language coming out of the POA, and the implications of what the cops are saying, is stunning.
For starters, most of the press has described Adachi as a political foe of the union. It’s way deeper than that: Adachi exposed misconduct at the department that led to felony charges and officers going to jail– cops who the POA defended, with union money, until the very end.
His expose was directly related to the racist-text-messaging scandal.
This wasn’t some minor political disagreement. The POA detested Jeff Adachi.
Now on to the statement.
Tony Montoya, the POA president, says that Chief Scott “was directly involved in the investigation” and “knew of Carmody’s press status” but “did not disclose to the author of the search warrant about Mr. Carmody’s press status. Had he done so, the sergeant who wrote the search warrant would have followed protocols.”
The POA says the chief “threw the men and women who carried out his orders under a double-decker bus.”
This is a bit curious, since the officers involved in the internal investigation of the leak – presumably including the sergeant who applied for the search warrant – went to Bryan Carmody’s house a week earlier and asked him to give up his source.
They must have known he was a reporter; why else would they have gone there? Why else would they have asked him about his source? What possible other relevance could he have had to the investigation?
Only after Carmody refused to cooperate did the cops seek a search warrant.
The way things work in this city, in an investigation this sensitive, with all the political pressure involved, I would be very surprised if anyone involved was unaware of the fact that the SFPD was going to execute a search warrant on a reporter. I suspect the chief knew, all of the cops involved knew, the Mayor’s Office knew, and the judges who signed the search warrant knew.
The rest of us won’t know until the court releases the search warrant application.
John Crew, a retired ACLU police practices lawyer, points out another level. He told me that almost anyone who accessed the Adachi file – other than the cops who wrote it – would have had to use the SFPD computer system.
Every cop has a unique login and password.
So the department could figure out pretty quickly, if it wanted to, which officers viewed or printed or otherwise accessed that report.
“The general orders are very clear,” Crew said. “If you don’t have a valid reason to access a report, you are subject to discipline.”
The computer system should reveal exactly which officers viewed or printed or copied that report during the relevant period. There was no reason to go after Carmody.
But the POA statement gets even more interesting. Check this out:
Remember, the truest test of character is not whether or not one makes a mistake. We allmake mistakes. It is what you do after you make a mistake. Do you take responsibility? Do you apologize and make amends? Do you vow not to repeat the mistake? And do you accept the appropriate consequences for the mistake? Chief Scott has failed the character test. It is time for him to go.
Wait a minute. As Crew asks:
Has the POA apologized for supporting officers who were convicted of a serious crime? Did anyone ever apologize to Adachi after he was attacked for exposing what turned out to be scandalous misconduct? Has the POA ever taken responsibility for its efforts over many years to keep women, people of color, and LGBT people out of the department?
The mayor and the Police Commission are standing behind the chief – and against the POA. That’s a good sign – this could be part of the last gasp of the widely discredited old-guard POA that has been such an obstacle to reform.
On the other hand, if Scott did, indeed, knowingly order an illegal search of a reporters’ house, it’s going to be hard for anyone to defend him.
Except that the Mayor’s Office and two judges might have known, too. And there’s no way to defend any of them.