'Videogate' hearings postponed after I-Team report

August 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
An I-Team investigation into the San Francisco Police Department's 'Videogate' controversy is having an impact at the Hall of Justice. Disciplinary hearings are being delayed while the police commissioner considers the issues ABC7 raised.

Monday night, the I-Team focused on the long history of comedy videos inside the SFPD; they have been used for years at Christmas parties and roasts. That is the officers' argument now -- why discipline them when no one else got in trouble?

Wendy Hurley came to the Hall of Justice Tuesday morning expecting to defend her appearance in the 'Cops Gone Wild' video.

"I've waited a long time for this day to be able to tell the truth and share my experience," she said.

The controversy erupted four and a half years ago when the police chief and the mayor held a news conference, playing clips and announcing two dozen officers were being suspended for the off-color comedy video. Hurley has been assigned to desk duty or out on disability with a work injury ever since.

She misses the life of a patrol officer.

"I miss the way I felt, feeling like I did a good job," Hurley said. "At the end of the day, I did what I could do. I haven't had that feeling in about five years, you know?"

But Hurley's hearing was put on hold while Police Commissioner Jim Hammer took up issues raised by Monday's I-Team report. Hurley's defense team had requested the department's older comedy videos from the SFPD.

"They claim they didn't have them, that they didn't exist and it was just a complete surprise to us that you had them," attorney Waukeen McCoy told ABC7.

McCoy will now use the I-Team report to show comedy videos have a long history in the department and that Hurley should not face charges if others had not been disciplined before.

"It's been blown up into this monster which it was never intended to be, the department has made up this story," Hurley said.

Hurley says what really happened was that the videos were an expression of a department trying to recover from tragedy. The Bayview Station was reeling after Officer Isaac Espinoza was shot and killed in 2004. With the approval of Chief Heather Fong, Hurley's boyfriend, Andrew Cohen, produced a documentary, 'Inside the SFPD,' focusing on the life of a Bayview cop. Hurley says the bloopers from the taping helped many Bayview officers laugh for the first time since Espinoza's death.

When Captain Rick Bruce announced his retirement, the officers used outtakes from 'Inside the SFPD' for the infamous 'Cops Gone Wild' video.

"The comedy video was there to show as a joke to the captain as he says how great we were, here's the funny video showing us how we're screwing around, you know, doing these crazy things, it was just meant for him to laugh and enjoy as a keepsake as he left the department," Hurley said.

Hurley did not get to make that argument Tuesday. Police Commissioner Jim Hammer postponed testimony so the police union could argue to close the hearing for fear of officers appearing on television. But, Tuesday afternoon, Hammer made his ruling.

"I'm going to grant Officer Hurley's request to open the hearing; we'll begin at nine tomorrow morning with a public trial except again without disclosing the identities of other officers who might not want to be identified in that way," Hammer said.

According to Hammer, officers who testify will have the choice whether or not they want to appear on camera to protect their own personnel records. The I-Team will be there and tell you what happens.

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