Last week, a San Francisco cop was arrested in Concord for allegedly molesting a 15-year-old boy. San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza confirmed a cop had been suspended without pay for an alleged crime in Concord -- but that's as far as he'd go.
"You''ll have to get the details from Concord Police -- it's their investigation," Esparza told us.
For the next three days we repeatedly called the Concord Police Department, attempting to get information about the case -- a name, details on charges (if any), you name it. Despite numerous calls and e-mails, even to the police chief, nobody would talk about the case.
Interestingly enough, after being given the institutional cold-shoulder and redirected to a bevy of non-communicative officers, we did get one call back. It was from a patrol sergeant who presumed we were calling about another case; he started offering up details about robbery suspects the department had just nabbed. But when we wanted to know about the SFPD cop who had been accused of child molestation, he grew less effusive: "Even if I did know something, I wouldn't be able to talk about it," he said, adding that it was something the investigation unit would have to comment on.
So why is the Concord Police Department so willing to reveal details about robbery suspects while remaining tight-lipped over a case involving a fellow man in blue? We asked that very question to Concord Lieutenant David Hughes who told us that "at this time, the release of information you seek would endanger the successful completion of our investigation."
He uttered the magic words that give cops an out for failing to provide the public with basic information about a case, says Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Association.
According to California Public Records Act, police are required to release certain information about an arrest, including the name of the arrestee. However, there is an exception.
"If disclosure of the name would impair the investigation of the agency or a related agency, then they can withhold it -- and they can withhold it, depending on the circumstances, for quite some time," Ewert said. "They hold all the cards in this area -- every single one of them."
So if you wanted any details -- any details at all -- about that alleged molestation, you may be waiting a while. But if you're dying to know about accused Concord robbers, the department's happy to dish.