Cops Who SPY

The possible policy violations concern David Campos, the police commissioner. "First Amendment guidelines are critical," he argues. "Any allegation that the Police Department engaged in something similar to what HP did is a serious allegation that needs to be looked into." A lawyer for the San Francisco Unified School District, Campos says he's waiting for all the facts to emerge before passing judgment.

Fellow commissioner Theresa Sparks isn't happy about the phone probe, either. "It's outrageous. It's totally outrageous," she says. "To me the press rooms, both at City Hall and the Hall of Justice, should be neutral territory. The press should be able to call who they want to call. ... To me it just smells bad." Like Campos, Sparks is worried the detectives may have flouted the guidelines.

Over at the SFPD, spokesperson Sgt. Steve Mannina argues the leak probe was legit and conformed to department rules. In a written statement Sgt. Mannina says, "The SFPD's investigation focused on whether or not anyone in the Police Department engaged in conduct that may have been a crime by releasing record(s) that are confidential pursuant to state law. No First Amendment activity was targeted or was implicated in this investigation; therefore, there was no violation of Department policy and no requirement to receive approval under the guidelines set by [Department General Order] 8.10. DGO 8.10 does not apply in this situation."

The investigation, he continues, "did not involve any eavesdropping, wiretapping, or phone monitoring," and was really nothing more than the Department scoping out its own phone lines.

That line of reasoning doesn't appease some high-ranking figures within the department, including Capt. Chignell, perhaps the harshest critic of the probe still on the force. His decision to speak on the record about the issue, even though doing so could effectively derail his career, reflects his level of frustration.

"These allegations of tampering with the First Amendment rights of the press are truly Nixonian," says Chignell, concluding that in his 36 years as a cop — including many as the president of the Police Officers' Association — "he has not seen such an abuse of the investigative process."

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