Chief William Scott acknowledged Friday that the searches were probably illegal and apologized for the way his department handled the investigation, telling the San Francisco Chronicle , "I'm sorry that this happened."
Bryan Carmody was handcuffed for hours on May 10 while police, armed with a sledgehammer, searched his home and office to uncover the source of a leaked report on the unexpected death of the city's former public defender. They subsequently removed dozens of Carmody's cameras, cellphones, computers and other equipment.
Media organizations across the country criticized the raids as a violation of California's shield law, which specifically protects journalists from search warrants.
Because the warrants are under seal, it's not known what information police provided to support the searches or to what extent they disclosed that Carmody is a journalist.
Scott initially defended the raid, telling the city Police Commission his department went through the appropriate legal process.
However, on Friday he said he reviewed all material related to the searches and acknowledged the warrants didn't adequately identify Carmody as a journalist. He blamed department investigators for their "lack of due diligence."
"This has raised important questions about our handling of this case and whether the California shield law was violated," Scott said.
The police union fired back on Saturday, saying in a scathing statement that Scott was actively involved in directing the investigation. Because the chief's office issues press credentials, the union alleged that Scott knew Carmody was a journalist and did not disclose that fact to the sergeant who wrote the search warrant.
"Chief Scott oversaw and ordered the investigation and raid of a journalist's home, and then when the optics did not go his way, he threw the men and women who carried out his orders under a double-decker bus," said Tony Montoya, president of the 2,200-member San Francisco Police Officers Association.
Mayor London Breed requested an independent probe into the way police executed the search warrant, which could lead to charges, and the ongoing investigation into who leaked the report, which could lead to discipline for officers.
Montoya called for a separate investigation into Scott, adding the chief should be placed on administrative leave during the probe.
Scott didn't respond to the specific allegations made by the union, but a department statement issued Saturday said an additional probe by the Department of Police Accountability will examine how the case was handled on all levels, including the command staff and the chief.
"Chief Scott has made it abundantly clear that transparency and accountability are paramount in this criminal investigation," the statement said.
Reporters and other First Amendment organizations want a judge to revoke search warrants that authorized the raid and to unseal the materials submitted in support of them.
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