Commander Greg McEachern of the San Francisco Police Department today offered a formal apology to the family of former Public Defender Jeff Adachi after the department improperly leaked documents and lurid details of his demise only hours after his Feb. 22 death.
“We harmed the community and we did harm to the family of Mr. Adachi, his wife, and his loved ones when the report was released within hours of when it was completed,” McEachern said this afternoon at a Board of Supervisors hearing. “On behalf of Chief Scott and the police department, I apologize — we apologize — to his family. Regardless of what happens with this investigation, they deserve an apology, and I’m here to offer one today.”
This came after Supervisor Hillary Ronen demanded an apology and criticized the department’s premature leaking of documents and images as a fiasco that “erodes the public trust in the police department and its ability to be objective and serve the community.”
But there would not be resolution today. Far from it. Only moments later, Hadi Razzaq, the head of investigations at the public defender’s office, claimed that investigator Jackson Holland was told on Feb. 24 by a KRON-TV reporter that copies of Adachi’s report were being hawked by “a stringer” — an unnamed freelance reporter — to media outlets for $2,500 apiece.
This information was recorded in a memo by the public defender’s office and conveyed to acting Public Defender Matt Gonzalez, public defender appointee Mano Raju and the internal affairs division of the SFPD. This allegation had also been kicking around members of the San Francisco press corps, and was known to this reporter.
“We appreciate the apology, but there are a number of unanswered questions, some of which I think can be answered today,” Razzaq continued. “Who released the report? Is there any evidence it was sold to the media? Were police involved” in selling the report?
Capt. Bill Braconi, the acting head of the department’s risk management division, said he was aware of these shocking allegations. But he declined to answer these questions due to the ongoing nature of the investigation. “All the questions he asked,” Braconi said of Razzaq’s bombshell, “are being investigated.”
This was Braconi’s answer earlier in the hearing when Ronen asked about the department’s progress in investigating how its formal procedures for releasing private materials were contravened, and by whom.
“I understand your concern,” Braconi said to Ronen. “I want to let you know we are working tirelessly on this case. It’s a priority case. I want to give you complete confidence in that. It’s not an easy investigation. it’s complex. We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to it.”
When asked when the investigation could be wrapped, Braconi responded “I’m hoping it’s weeks, not months.”
But what we, the public, will see is yet to be determined. That depends upon what is discovered, whether the charges, if any, are criminal or administrative, and if SB 1421, a new bill allowing the release of previously confidential police files, is applicable. While that bill largely applies to officer-involved shootings or use-of-force, it also applies to “dishonesty.” That may end up being applicable.
All of this came as cold comfort for Mutsuko Adachi, Jeff’s widow.
“It’s despicable what the SPFD did to myself and my daughter by releasing this report,” she said before breaking down in tears. “It was like 12 hours. It was an ongoing investigation. To say it affects the family is an understatement. It is incredibly painful to have the police department do this to you.”
Following the meeting, McEachern knelt and delivered several quiet words to Mutsuko Adachi.