San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott apologized for raiding a journalist’s home and office in a bid to unmask a confidential source, admitting the searches were probably illegal and calling for an independent investigation into the episode, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Police “should have done a better job,” Scott said. “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.” The chief said he was “concerned” that the applications for the search warrants in the May 10 raid didn’t adequately identify freelance videographer Bryan Carmody as a journalist — particularly a warrant to search his phone.
The searches were part of an investigation into who leaked him a salacious police report on the February death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, a report Carmody sold to three television stations. California’s shield law protects journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources or hand over unpublished information including notes, recordings and pictures.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. Scott said the department will drop its investigations and turn them over to independent agencies. The chief said Mayor London Breed requested the independent probe. He also said the department will not use any evidence seized in the raids and will not turn it over to other investigators. Breed said she was glad the chief “acknowledged the department’s mistakes and apologized,” but was “deeply disappointed by the actions taken in this case up to today. This is unacceptable and we have to do better.” Scott’s statement was a reversal of his earlier public comments on the raid, which prompted outrage locally and nationally from lawmakers and press-freedom advocates.