Chief Heather Fong Points The Finger At Newsom
SAN FRANCISCO, Sep. 21, 2007 - KGO (KGO) -- There's a major development in the controversy over that San Francisco "Cops Gone Wild" video. Police Chief Heather Fong is blaming the mayor's office for the uproar over the tape.
Eighteen officers who were suspended for appearing in the off-color Bayview comedy video have filed a $20 million dollar lawsuit against the city. Both sides appeared in Federal Court on Friday morning, but the major news is this video shot just yesterday when the chief was under oath.
This news conference from December of 2005 is at the heart of the $20 million dollar lawsuit against the city and Chief Fong.
"This is a dark day, an extremely dark day in the history of the San Francisco Police Department," said S.F. Police Chief Heather Fong on December 7, 2005.
Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom publicly blasted Bayview officers who appeared in a video for a retiring captain. Without even speaking with the officers, Fong and Newsom played clips from the video and announced all the officers on it were being suspended.
"It is shameful, it is offensive, sexist, homophobic and it is racist. We're going to make sure it ends and it ends immediately," said S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom on December 7, 2005.
Just yesterday under oath in a deposition for the lawsuit, Chief Fong said that news conference wasn't her idea;
"I did not want to go through a press conference," said Fong during a deposition.
After the city attorney's objection, Chief Fong answered the question.
"The mayor's office scheduled the press conference. As the chief, it was my responsibility to be there because it impacted the police department. I normally would not hold a press conference to discuss a disciplinary matter," said Fong during the deposition.
Eighteen Bayview officers have filed the $20 million dollar lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The basic complaint Fong and Newsom shouldn't have discussed in public, what was, by this point a personnel matter that's covered under the Peace Officer's Bill of Rights.
"Nor shall his or her home address or photograph be given to the press without his or her expressed consent," reads Chief Fong from the Bill of Rights.
"And I'm asking you with respect to my clients that I represent, did you get written consent from them before you participated in the press conference where their images were shown to the public?" Asked the attorney.
S.F. Chief Heather Fong: "No."
Chief Fong also denied holding private screenings of the video for civilians -- including religious leaders, such as Third Baptist Pastor Amos Brown.
Rev. Amos Brown from Third Baptist Church: "I made a request to see it."
ABC7's Dan Noyes: "To whom?"
Rev. Amos Brown: "The mayor, the mayor's staff, the chief of police."
On Friday, Reverend Brown told ABC7 he saw the entire video, not just the five clips shown at the news conference -- all 26 minutes of it.
ABC7's Dan Noyes: "You saw it at City Hall?"
Rev. Amos Brown: "Yes."
ABC7's Dan Noyes: "Was the Chief of Police there?"
Rev. Amos Brown: "Sure, both of them were there."
ABC7's Dan Noyes: "Mayor, too."
Rev. Amos Brown: "I had called them."
These contradictions will be part of the case as it moves forward. Today in Federal Court, the city attorney's office tried to get chief Fong removed as a defendant in the case.
"The actions she took and then the press conference where she made statements to assure the public that appropriate action would be taken were within the scope of her duties as chief of police and such, they're privileged under California law," said Deputy City Attorney Larry Hecimovich.
Lawyers for the police officers disagree, and they moved today to add the mayor to the case.
ABC7's Dan Noyes: "Why should Gavin Newsom be a defendant in this case?"
"Same as Heather Fong, I think he should also be held accountable for his actions, displaying their images on the screen for the world to see," said the lawyer for the officers Waukeen McCoy.
The judge took up those two motions for review. We'll get back to you with her decision when it comes down. The Mayor's Office did not return our calls.
By the way, that was one contentious deposition; instead of "cops gone wild", it seemed like "lawyers gone wild".
Have a tip on this or another investigation? E-mail the ABC7 I-Team or call 1-888-40-I-TEAM.
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