Mayor London Breed reacted to police raiding the home and office of freelancer Bryan Carmody on Sunday, May 19, 2019 (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Facing scrutiny, Mayor Breed says she’s ‘not okay’ with police raids on journalists

‘The more we learn, the less appropriate it looks to me,’ mayor says of SFPD action

Mayor London Breed on Sunday questioned whether police should have raided the home and office of a freelance journalist while investigating who leaked a police report on the death of the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Breed, who did not condemn the widely rebuked raids in her first statement issued days ago, appeared to softly criticize the May 10 searches against freelancer Bryan Carmody while still defending them as legal in a series of tweets.

“I want the SFPD to get to the bottom of this,” the mayor said, referring to the San Francisco Police Department’s probe into the Adachi report. “But I am not okay with police raids on reporters. We need to do better.”

Breed made her comments amid national outrage over the police raids, which raised press freedom concerns. Attorneys say the warrants may have been issued in violation of state and federal law protecting journalist from having search warrants issued against them.

Police were facing pressure from members of the Board of Supervisors to hold the source of the Adachi leak accountable when officers brought a sledgehammer to Carmody’s doorstep. The report included unflattering details about Adachi’s death.

Carmody, a longtime stringer in the region who obtained the report, has since said he sold the document to several TV stations. Carmody also said he declined when police asked him to name his source.

Since two judges issued the warrants against Carmody, Breed said she had to believe the raids were “legal and warranted.” Attorneys say the raids may have violated state and federal laws that protect journalists from having search warrants issued against them, including the California shield law.

“Whether or not the search was legal, warranted and appropriate, however, is another question,” Breed said. “And the more we learn, the less appropriate it looks to me.”

Breed called for The City to develop “a protocol going forward for how to handle investigations that involve members of the media.” A spokesperson for the mayor not respond to a request for comment seeking clarity on her plans.

In her previous statement issued Tuesday, Breed only said police “went through the appropriate legal process to request a search warrant” and called for accountability for the Adachi leak.

Police Chief Bill Scott similarly stood behind the raids Wednesday at the Police Commission, saying repeatedly that the department went through the “appropriate legal process” before searching the journalist.

Scott avoided answering questions from Commissioner John Hamasaki directly. But the chief did say he would not disclose the information police filed to obtain the warrants. Police filed their applications for the warrants under seal to protect a confidential informant.

Several media groups have since filed motions with the court seeking to unseal that information, arguing that knowing what police told the judges about Carmody being a journalist is central to determining whether the warrants were issued in violation of state and federal law.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Carmody has filed a motion seeking to invalidate and revoke the search warrants issued against his home and office. The motion argues the raids violated state and federal law including the California shield law.

The motion argues that police should have followed the established practice of obtaining a subpoena for the information instead of carrying out the “breathtakingly overbroad searches.”

The motion also seeks to have the property police took from him returned, including reporters’ notebooks, video cameras and computers.

Both motions are scheduled to be heard this week.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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