Court overturns police video creator's suspension
SFPD Officer Andrew Cohen, author of the infamous SFPD video that
became known as 'videogate', should not have been suspended from
a state appeals court ruled today.
By Julia Cheever
July 5, 2007
A San Francisco police officer who created a controversial video
parody three years ago should not have been temporarily suspended
from his job, a state appeals court ruled today.
The Court of Appeal ordered the city to reimburse Officer Andrew
Cohen for the four days of pay he lost during his suspension from
Dec. 8 to 16, 2005.
The court said Police Chief Heather Fong didn't follow the Police
Department's own rules when she suspended Cohen because those
rules allow temporary suspensions without a hearing only in "exigent"
or emergency situations.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court said the video did not
create an exigent situation endangering the Police Department's
ability to protect the public.
Justice Sandra Margulies wrote, "In our view, temporary
suspensions may not be used a shortcut method of taking punitive
action against an officer or as a tool for conducting public relations
The video showed skits of uniformed officers responding to mock
police calls, including one scene that supposedly showed a homeless
black woman who had been hit by a patrol car and another that
depicted officers retreating into a massage parlor after avoiding
a burglary call.
Cohen described the video as a "comedic parody of Police
Department life" that was intended to boost morale, while
critics called it sexist, racist and anti-gay.
The officer placed excerpts on a Web site and planned to show
the video at a Christmas party for officers at the city's Bayview-Hunters
At a news conference on Dec. 7, 2005, the day after they became
aware of the video, Fong called the tape "egregious, shameful
and despicable" and Mayor Gavin Newsom labeled it "sexist,
racist and homophobic."
Fong temporarily suspended Cohen without pay until a Dec. 14
administrative hearing to determine whether he should remain suspended
until the Police Commission ruled on charges that Cohn brought
discredit upon the department.
As a result of the administrative hearing, Cohen was returned
to his job while awaiting a commission hearing, which has not
yet taken place.
Twenty-three other officers who also allegedly participated in
the video were also reinstated in their jobs.
Harry Stern, a lawyer for Cohen, called the ruling "fantastic."
He said in addition to getting back his four days of pay, Cohen
will ask a Superior Court judge to require the city to pay his
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said
the ruling is "not a blockbuster" and said Herrera doesn't
plan to appeal to the California Supreme Court.
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