Sneaky surveillance - Page 3

SFPD has been quietly seeking video footage of new bars since losing a public fight over the issue

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GUARDIAN ILLUSTRATION BY EVAN WALDINGER

Shyy said SFPD will "only request them when a crime has been committed," but he also admitted that the conditions it is requesting on liquor licenses don't set that limit and the policy hasn't been reviewed by the Police Commission or other local oversight bodies.

ABC spokesperson John Carr told us his department doesn't have a position on video surveillance and hasn't tracked whether other jurisdictions are seeking the condition. As for whether it routinely includes SFPD's recommended conditions, he said, "ABC reviews each application on a case by case basis."

There are indications that SFPD sometimes resorts to bullying bar owners into turning over video surveillance without legal authority to do so. Jamie Zawinski with DNA Lounge last month blogged about Officer Simon Chan telling the club that it was required to keep video footage and turn it over upon request, which club operators informed the SFPD wasn't true. "It's just another sneaky, backdoor regulation that ABC and SFPD have been foisting on everyone without any kind of judicial oversight, in flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment," Zawinski wrote.

Regarding that incident, Shyy would only confirm that most bars aren't yet required to keep and turn over video footage. And he said SFPD will cooperate with the hearing Campos and Wiener have called. "At this point, we don't believe we're violating people's constitutional rights, but we're willing to have that discussion," Shyy said.

Wiener said that on April 3, he discussed the issue with Police Chief Greg Suhr, who indicated a willingness to cooperate with public hearings on the policy. But Wiener said he's bothered by the fact that SFPD seems to have put this new policy in place right after being unsuccessful in doing this through a public process in 2011.

"I and others expressed opposition to this and I and others thought the Police Department had backed away from it," Wiener said at the April 4 hearing, noting that "I'm not philosophically opposed to surveillance," only with how SFPD instituted it. "I have an issue with the Police Department deciding to insert this on its own without a broader policy discussion."