Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kamala Harris, Josh Wolf, and Peter Shields

It's no surprise that Kamala Harris isn't going to be endorsed by the SF Police Officers Association. Her refusal in 2004 to ask for the death penalty for David Hill for shooting city cop Isaac Espinoza to death is still an issue with the SFPD. They put their lives on the line for public safety, and they expect the rest of society---especially district attorneys---to have their back when one of them is killed.

But city cops also remember how differently she handled Josh Wolf and city cop Peter Shields, who had his skull fractured by Wolf's anarchist comrades in an a demo that Wolf videotaped. He refused to surrender his tape to a Federal Grand Jury, which sent him to federal prison for seven months.

Kamala Harris then wrote an op-ed (below in italics) in the leftist SF Bay Guardian in support of Wolf's alleged free speech rights---he was the victim, not Shields! In her eagerness to score political points against the Bush administration, she conflated the immigration issue with the Wolf case and didn't even mention Shields by name:

Of course I believe crimes against police officers should be aggressively prosecuted. But I also believe that federal authorities have an obligation to respect the First Amendment. Free speech rights are critical to the work of journalists, university researchers, organized labor, and all of us in a democracy. The Justice Department should recognize the importance of protecting free speech, not only as consitutional and civil liberties issues but as smart public safety policy. Journalists play a key role in connecting us to individuals with information about crimes, and threatening the confidentiality of their sources has a chilling effect.

Yet the so-called journalist in this case was himself the potential source of information on who fractured Shields's skull. (Wolf had no legal defense because there is no federal shield law.)

Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders---unlike Wolf, a real journalist---blew the whistle on Wolf at the time.

Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, remembers the Josh Wolf case, since he wrote a letter to the editor in 2006 objecting to the Chronicle's "Free Josh Wolf" editorial:

Editor,
I found your Aug. 3 editorial, "Free Josh Wolf," very interesting as you downplayed the seriousness of the events that transpired on July 8, 2005.

On that night, Wolf, a self-proclaimed anarchist, videotaped a group of individuals, who "scuffled with police." The "scuffle" you referred to almost cost Officer Peter Shields his life, as he was nearly beaten to death by the "peaceful" protesters. He was hospitalized for more than a month with a fractured skull and other injuries, but hey, what the heck, it comes with the job!

I am sure that if this incident involved police misconduct, The Chronicle would be taking the opposite view that the world has the right to know, and I am sure the videotape would have found its way to the desk of every editor from here to New York.

Wolf wants the best of both worlds. He sold the video for profit, but now attempts to hide behind the "Shield Act." The Chronicle has once again shamelessly shown its bias and hypocrisy. I am sure it would have taken the same position had this been the "Rodney King" tape. I would think The Chronicle would want every crime captured on tape to be reported. Unless, of course, we want to make an exception for those who choose anarchy over order.

GARY DELAGNES,
president
San Francisco
Police Officers Association

Law enforcement's real battles
(San Francisco Bay Guardian, Wednesday February 28, 2007)
Precious resources should be focused on addressing violence, gun crime, and major white-collar crime

By Kamala Harris

Opinion In order to be smart on crime, law enforcement needs to make important choices about where to focus our resources. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has been making poor choices, and those choices are hitting home in San Francisco.

Recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has conducted raids in San Francisco and around the Bay Area, rounding up immigrants at their jobs and schools, in some instances with ICE agents announcing themselves as police. These actions sow fear in the immigrant community among undocumented and documented residents alike.

The raids conducted in San Francisco present many of us in local law enforcement with a great concern. One of law enfocement's biggest challenges to protecting crime victims in immigrant communities is encouraging them to come forward. Because immigrants are often afraid to report crimes, they can be regarded as easy targets for violent criminals and con artists.

We all suffer when crime victims are isolated from law enforcement. If victims and witnesses do not report crimes or cooperate with law enforcement, criminals remain on the streets, and all of us are put at risk. That is why my office is holding immigrant resource fairs in the Mission District and Chinatown to support immigrant rights and to make clear to community members that they are protected by San Francisco's Sanctuary Ordinance and that my office will not report them to ICE when they come forward as witnesses or victims of crime. Rather than driving immigrants deeper into the shadows, we need to encourage those who have been victimized by crime to work with us to hold criminals accountable.

At the same time, the US Justice Department is walking down an ominous path by threatening journalists with prison time when they protect their confidential sources. In San Francisco the US Attorney has held journalist Josh Wolf in prison since September 2006. Wolf should be released. For very good reasons, 31 states, including California, have shield laws upholding the rights of journalists to protect the secrecy of their sources and unpublished information. We need a federal shield law as well.

Of course I believe crimes against police officers should be aggressively prosecuted. But I also believe that federal authorities have an obligation to respect the First Amendment. Free speech rights are critical to the work of journalists, university researchers, organized labor, and all of us in a democracy. The Justice Department should recognize the importance of protecting free speech, not only as consitutional and civil liberties issues but as smart public safety policy. Journalists play a key role in connecting us to individuals with information about crimes, and threatening the confidentiality of their sources has a chilling effect. If sources fear their confidentiality will not be protected, they will be less likely to come forward to journalists with information that could expose corruption or assist us in solving violent crimes.

Cities across the country are grappling with serious gang violence. Precious resources should be focused on addressing violence, gun crime, and major white-collar crime, not wasted on prosecuting journalists and conducting immigration raids that sweep up innocent residents, actions that hinder our efforts to build trusting relationships with vulnerable, victimized communities and keep the public safe.

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