Lawyers want to bar cops from reviewing video before writing reports

Bay City News
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Bar Association of San Francisco urged the city's Police Commission Tuesday to adopt a policy of barring officers from reviewing body camera footage when writing reports on cases of police shootings or other use of force.

The lawyers' group made its plea in a letter sent to the commission today, they announced at a news conference at the association's headquarters in the city's Financial District.

The Police Commission is scheduled to vote at a meeting Wednesday evening on what the policy should be for the body-worn cameras slated for use by officers beginning sometime next year.

Bar Association president Timothy Moppin said their proposed policy "will promote fairness and integrity in the investigative process and will ensure that (an) officer's observations are pure and uncontaminated."

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and the American Civil Liberties Union joined in similar statements.

Sgt. Rachael Kilshaw, the commission's secretary, said the commission will be voting on which option to pursue, but said it will not set the final policy until after completing a required meet-and-confer process with the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the Police Department and the city's Human Resources Department.

The officers' union has said it "adamantly opposes" preventing officers from viewing footage before making reports.

POA President Martin Halloran wrote in the November issue of the POA Journal, "It makes complete and total sense that an officer be allowed to review all evidence before submitting a report or providing a statement to an investigator."

"This would include body-worn camera footage," Halloran wrote.

The Bar Association's position was adopted by its board of directors on the recommendation of its Criminal Justice Task Force. The association represents more than 8,000 lawyers, law students and legal professionals.

The association's proposal would prevent an officer from reviewing footage before making a report in a case where there is any use of force by an officer or when an officer is the subject of any criminal or

administrative investigation.

Adachi said San Jose and Richmond have adopted similar policies.

"I strongly feel San Francisco needs to be a leading light, particularly on issues of excessive force," Adachi said at the news conference.