"Cops Gone Wild" video producer investigated

August 13, 2008 7:10:39 PM PDT
The San Francisco police officer at the center of the "Cops Gone Wild" video scandal that's been dragging on since 2005 faces new trouble: an Internal Affairs investigation.

Andrew Cohen is among 18 officers suspended for appearing in the off-color video who are now suing the city. But it is Cohen alone who's under investigation for leaking a video of Chief Heather Fong being deposed in the case.

"I was extremely upset at the fact that they would pull such a stunt," said SFPD Officer Andrew Cohen.

In one week, Officer Cohen will have to answer accusations of "conduct unbecoming an officer."

The notice from the SFPD's Management Control Division, the equivalent of Internal Affairs, says Cohen misused a sick day to attend Chief Heather Fong's deposition last September, but more importantly, that he violated a court order by allegedly providing a copy of the deposition to the I-Team.

Fong was deposed for a $20 million lawsuit that 18 officers, including Cohen, filed against the city for racial discrimination.

They all appeared in an off-color video meant for a retirement party. Without even speaking with the officers, Chief Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom played clips from the video at a news conference and announced all the officers on it were being suspended.

"It is shameful, it is offensive, sexist, homophobic and it is racist, and we're going to make sure it ends and it ends immediately," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on December 7, 2005.

"This is a dark day, an extremely dark day in the history of the San Francisco Police Department," said SFPD Chief Heather Fong on December 7, 2005.

The 18 officers complain in the lawsuit that Fong suspended everyone on the video except the Asian officers.

In her deposition, the chief defended her actions and said that news conference wasn't her idea.

Chief Heather Fong: "I didn't want to go through a press conference."

Officers' lawyer: "Well, who actually compelled your attendance to the press conference?"

City attorney: "Objection."

After the city attorney's objection, Chief Fong answered the question.

Chief Fong: "The mayor's office scheduled the press conference, as the chief, it was my responsibility to be there. I normally would not hold a press conference to discuss a disciplinary matter."

The release of the video to the I-Team angered the city attorney's office and the mayor's office and now, Cohen believes the Internal Affairs complaint against him is retaliation for his lawsuit against the city.

"It seems like they're just going after me, they just want to affect me and I'm assuming they just want to get rid of me but I'll fight them until it's all exonerated," said Cohen.

But, ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says the police department had no choice but to investigate Cohen after the federal judge in the case ruled in November that he and his attorney had violated a protective order by giving the I-Team Chief Fong's deposition video, posting a summary of it on Cohen's blog and attaching clips of the video to a complaint he filed against the chief with the police department.

"Any time you have an accusation that a police officer violated a court order, that's something that raises questions about his credibility, about his ability to do a job, and it's something that should be looked into," said Johnson.

The judge fined Cohen and his attorney $24,000, then reduced it to $15,000. Cohen's lawyer says he'll appeal the fine.

Here's an interesting twist: The I-Team doesn't name confidential sources, but in this case, we can confirm it wasn't Andrew Cohen who gave us Chief Fong's deposition video.

But, that doesn't necessarily let Cohen off the hook for the Internal Affairs investigation into the deposition video.

"If it was done with Cohen's knowledge, consent or instruction, then he would be liable for indirectly violating a court order by delivering the tape or having it delivered to Channel 7," said Johnson.

Andrew Cohen's been blasting Chief Fong on his blog "Inside the SFPD", but he tells the I-Team he's tiring of the fight. He plans on shutting down the site on the 1,000th day since the "Cops Gone Wild" video scandal erupted.

"I'm disappointed in this administration. I'm disappointed in our union for not standing up for us, so I think disappointment is the key now. The anger's gone, I don't have any anger for them, it's just time to move on," said Cohen.

Andrew Cohen is out on disability with an injury he suffered while working the Records Department. The lawsuit filed by Cohen and the other officers is headed for a jury trial in January. Chances are, it will be dismissed or settled before then.

To learn more about the SFPD video controversy, read the I-Team Blog.


Load Comments