San Francisco ordinance would protect media phone
records from SFPD
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
January 26, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The San Francisco Board of Supervisors
is scheduled to vote on an ordinance Tuesday that would prohibit
the San Francisco Police Department from inspecting the phone
records of members of the media who work at police headquarters.
The ordinance, written by Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, passed
unanimously in a rules committee meeting this morning and Sandoval
said it has received considerable support.
"What could be plainer?'' he asked. "We need to protect
the First Amendment rights of the press. We don't want to give
the police a back-door opportunity to spy.''
Sandoval said he introduced the ordinance after reading a media
report on the Police Department's use of city records to determine
the source of a memo leaked during the Fajita-gate scandal.
The city's telecom department reportedly kept logs of calls in
the Hall of Justice press room and handed over the logs to police
investigators, a practice police said did not violate any laws
or constitutional protections because the phone lines were owned
by the city.
"It's like dangling a piece of cheese in front of a mouse,''
Sandoval said. "You can't expect them to ignore it.''
The ordinance is designed to prevent any compliance from the
city in future police investigations. If approved, it would shift
the costs of providing the phones from the Police Department budget
to the city's Department of Administrative Services.
"I thought that it was outrageous that the Police Department
was snooping on the press in that manner,'' Sandoval said. "There's
plenty of blame to go around. The mayor and the Board of Supervisors
should have fixed this a long time ago.''
A police spokesman could not be reached for comment.
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