SAN FRANCISCO—On Tuesday, May 26, the San Francisco Police Department agreed to uphold journalist protections from police raids in a settlement with Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist who had his house and office illegally searched by the police in 2019.
On May 10, 2019, SFPD officers held Carmody in handcuffs and raided his home for six hours in search of the source of a leaked police report. They also confiscated and searched his phones, computers, and cameras.
SFPD had obtained five search warrants from San Francisco court judges in order to conduct the search. However, those court authorizations were eventually nullified when the searches were scrutinized for potentially infringing on a California shield law for journalists. The law prohibits anyone employed by a newspaper or other publication from “being held in contempt for refusing to disclose the source of any information procured for publication.”
On March 3 of this year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to a $369,000 settlement with Carmody.
Along with that payment, SFPD will issue a “department bulletin” to its employees notifying them of press protections with respect to police searches and subpoenas.
Ben Berkowitz, who is on Carmody’s legal team, outlined in an email that the city and police department have approved new training measures that will make sure that SFPD does not violate the First Amendment and the California Shield Law in the future.
SFPD spokesperson Officer Adam Lobsinger told the San Francisco News in an email that the department is working on a public statement. This will be updated upon that statement’s release.
As Berkowitz put it to the San Francisco News, “This settlement is justice not just for Bryan, but for everyone in his profession.”