In September, we showed you how heated the pre-trial maneuvering was getting in the “Cops Gone Wild” case. In a deposition, San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong placed responsibility on the Mayor’s Office for a news conference. That’s where eighteen officers learned they were being suspended for participating in a video for a retiring captain.
Those officers have filed a $20 million federal lawsuit against the city and Chief Fong. In this I-Team blog called “Lawyer’s Gone Wild”, we showed clips from the deposition of the lawyers’ intense arguments.
Today, Federal Court Judge Susan Illston sanctioned the video’s producer, Officer Andrew Cohen, and his lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, for providing Fong’s deposition to the I-Team. You can read Judge Illston’s entire ruling here.
I also wanted to tell you about document filed in a related case that could have impact on the “Cops Gone Wild” case. Captain Rick Bruce headed Bayview Station when Cohen produced the controversial videotape. In fact, he was the one who was retiring – the one for whom Cohen made the tape. Officer Cohen sued the San Francisco Police Officers Association for refusing to pay for his legal counsel. As part of that case, Captain Bruce has filed a declaration that says the controversial video was, in fact, authorized by the police chain of command. In the declaration, Bruce says that Andrew Cohen's duties as an officer "included the carrying of his video camera and the filming of other officers." Bruce adds, "Cohen's videotaping, both documentary and comedic, were a benefit to the overall level of morale at this station." Captain Bruce was even present when Cohen shot a skit in which an officer posing as an inmate snuck into the captain's office, put on his jacket, hat and gun belt, and pretended to escape. Attorney Waukeen McCoy says the declaration goes to the heart of the case, and that none of the officers should have been suspended for the tape. The City Attorney’s Office tells us Cohen may have been authorized to make videos, but was not authorized to demean anyone because of their gender, race or sexual preference. That opens up many other arguments we’ve been exploring in other I-Team reports. Clearly, more to come …