Investigation Underway Surrounding the Police Raid of San Francisco Journalist


Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Police Chief William Scott

On May tenth, a sledgehammer was used in a police raid at the San Francisco home of a freelance journalist, all in order to obtain information about how the journalist, Bryan Carmody, acquired a confidential police report. 

The death of Jeff Adachi in February, a former public defender, was detailed in a confidential police report that Carmody obtained and subsequently leaked to local news outlets. 

The police raid was conducted with a warrant, but it was discovered by the police union that the San Francisco police chief, William Scott, personally ordered the investigation into Carmody.  Scott then deceived the requester of the search warrant about the identify of Carmody as a journalist.

Journalists have certain protected rights, which protects their notes and work from being seized by police and other authorities, such as the Shield Law in California. This law states that journalists have legal protection when trying to retain the confidentiality of a source or information. Many have asserted that Scott’s actions were in direct violation with the Shield Law. 

After forcefully entering Carmody’s home, police officers confiscated his devices, including his computer and phone. The journalist was handcuffed and detained for multiple hours, where police questioned Carmody about how he got access to the police report, which detailed the death of Adachi.

After the raid and subsequent outcry, the police chief initially defended the raid, alleging Carmody got the police report through a criminal conspiracy. Later, in a conversation with the San Francisco Chronicle, Scott attempted to deny involvement, blaming the officers who created the warrants for not following department policy.

As outcry increased, many called for an independent investigation and the removal of Scott as police chief. The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association called for Scott’s resignation in a statement last week. 

Scott apologized later in the week, acknowledging that the actions taken were most likely illegal. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Scott said, “I’m sorry it happened.”

The lawyers of Carmody released a statement which indicated that they were, “…encouraged to see that Mayor Breed called for an independent, external investigation of the San Francisco Police Department’s conduct in this matter. There needs to be real reform in the Department to ensure that the SFPD respects the First Amendment and the independence of a free press.”

William Scott, as well as Mayor Breed, have not commented on whether or not a resignation is in order for the police chief. The San Francisco police department have handed over an investigation into the raid to the Department of Police Accountability. It remains to be seen what outside investigations will reveal about the events that have unfolded and the effect this will have on actions yet to be taken.