San Francisco police union calls on chief to resign after raid on reporter's home

The call for Chief Bill Scott to step down came one day after he apologized for the May 10 raid.

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By Tim Stelloh

San Francisco’s police union called on the city’s police chief to resign on Saturday over his handling of a widely criticized raid on a local reporter’s home earlier this month.

In a letter to members, union president Tony Montoya called on Chief Bill Scott to step down one day after Scott apologized for the May 10 raid on the home of freelance reporter Bryan Carmody.

According to NBC Bay Area, Scott said he was concerned about how department investigators dealt with Carmody’s status a journalist, adding: “This has raised important questions about our handling of this case and whether the California shield law was violated,” Scott said, referring to a state law that protects journalists.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott answers questions during a news conference, May 21, 2019, in San Francisco.Eric Risberg / AP file

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The department was admonished by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Washington Post Editorial Board, press freedom groups and others, though police officials initially defended it, saying the move represented “a step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of confidential police material.”

The raid occurred after a confidential source leaked to Carmody a police report with details about the death of San Francisco’s public defender, Jeff Adachi. The city’s medical examiner found that trace amounts of cocaine and alcohol found in Adachi’s system contributed to his death.

Carmody sold a story about the report to some local news outlets. The story — which included photos of the apartment where Adachi was found unresponsive — was condemned by Adachi’s family and local officials, and police officials promised to hold the leaker accountable.

During the raid, Carmody said that officers knocked down the gate of his home with a sledgehammer and seized thousands of dollars in electronics after he refused to identify his source.

In Saturday’s letter, Montoya said that the investigation into the leak “is a righteous one” but said Scott appeared to be trying to dodge responsibility by blaming investigators.

“Chief Scott not only followed every twist and turn of the investigation but he knew every element of the investigation, directed the investigation and has clearly either come down with the most debilitating case of amnesia or is flat out not telling the truth about his direct involvement and the horribly flawed direction he gave to find the leak of the police report,” Montoya said. “In either case, it is time for Chief Scott to go.”

In a statement Sunday, a police department spokesman did not directly address the union's demand but said its handling of the raid would be investigated "on all levels" by the Department of Police Accountability.

"Chief Scott has made it abundantly clear that transparency and accountability are paramount in this criminal investigation," the statement said.

Carmody did not respond to a request for a comment, though a statement attributed to his lawyer, Ben Berkowitz, said there needs to be “real reform” to ensure that “the SFPD respects the First Amendment and the independence of a free press.”