Privacy waiver for SFPD officers nixed

Police officers will not be required to forego their right to privacy when settling disciplinary cases early, the San Francisco Police Department’s civilian oversight body decided Wednesday.

Five of the seven members of the San Francisco Police Commission voted against a resolution that would have required officers facing department discipline to waive their right to confidentiality if they wanted to settle their cases without a full hearing before the commission. However, two of the “no” votes came from commissioners who indicated they would support an amended version of the resolution.

The commission has been grappling with the implications of a California Supreme Court decision, Copley Press v. Superior Court, that came down Aug. 31. The court found that newspapers and the public do not have the right to know the identities of officers involved in department discipline. The resolution to force officers seeking “stipulated dispositions” to waive their right to privacy has been before the commission for about a month.

On Wednesday, just before the resolution went to a vote, Commissioner Theresa Sparks suggested an amendment to the resolution that would make it only apply to cases where officers faced more than 45-day suspensions. However, commission Vice President David Campos, who moved for the vote on the resolution, refused to accept the amendment.

Campos acknowledged that the resolution would likely incur a lawsuit by the police officers’ union, but he indicated that might be welcome.

“If there is a case to be tested in court on the scope of Copley, I feel that, given that Copley does not address stipulated dispositions, that this would be a good case to take to court,” Campos said before the vote.

Only Campos and Commissioner Petra DeJesus supported the resolution. Sparks and Commissioner Joe Veronese voted against it but indicated they would support a version that included Sparks’ amendment.

Mark Schlosberg, police practices policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was “disappointed” that the resolution didn’t pass. He urged the commission to revisit the amended version of the resolution as soon as possible.

“It’s important that serious cases … not be settled in backroom deals,” Schlosberg said Thursday.

The commission did pass a resolution by Veronese that urges officers to waive their confidentiality rights and requires the commission to issue a bimonthly report giving findings of disciplinary proceedings before it.

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