26-Nov-2009 (Thu)
Wherein the War on Fun gets some more press.

Here's a longer article about SFPD's apparent new policy of seizing any laptops they can find -- even ones that are turned off, and tucked away inside a backpack -- any time they bust up a private house party (mentioned previously):

Police seize DJs' laptops: New police chief apparently condones policy that critics call illegal and punitive

While SFPD officials deny the laptop seizures is a new policy, they admit it has been condoned by Police Chief George Gascón, who took over in August and last month told the Guardian's editorial board he wants to make the SFPD more transparent and accountable to the public.

"The police chief is aware that officers are being proactive in gathering evidence," Sgt. Lyn Tomioka told the Guardian when asked about a string of laptop seizures by undercover cops over the last 10 months, most of them in cases in which the DJs weren't even charged with a crime. [...]

Tomioka said it's a judgment call for officers to seize laptops as evidence of an illegal party, but San Francisco Entertainment Commission member Terrance Alan said the tactic is a punitive measure that proves nothing: "Taking laptops [is] not necessary to prove the underlying crime, and in many cases damages people's ability to earn a living."

Ladies and Gentlemen, San Francisco's Finest, Officer Larry Bertrand, SFPD badge #414:

But Miller said it didn't stop there. One of the undercover officers approached her and asked if she had a laptop. She said she did. "I was a little confused at this point because I didn't know what my laptop had to do with anything. I was playing CDs." She said she pulled her computer out from underneath a table and unzipped it from a case. The officer then "grabbed it from me."

The undercover police officer -- later identified by witnesses and the evidence receipt as Larry Bertrand -- instructed Miller to follow him down to the street to get a property receipt for her laptop.

At this point there were uniformed officers on the scene as well. Miller started to cry. "I begged him. I said, 'This is my livelihood. You're taking my laptop. This is my livelihood. I hope you realize that.' He said, 'This is how you're going to learn then, I guess.'"

Miller said Bertrand (who did not return Guardian calls for comment) then told her he was "going to take it upon himself to shut down every illegal party in San Francisco."

She said he then opened the trunk of his car, revealing several other laptops. A person at the party pointed out that one of the laptops belonged to a friend of his, and asked if he could get the property receipt for the laptop. Miller said Bertrand turned to the inquiring person and said, "You will never see this laptop again."

She continued: "He then looked at me and said, 'I'm going to make sure your paperwork gets so tied up that maybe you won't see this laptop until December, January, February, who knows when.' I felt so violated."

Jennifer Granick, a civil liberties lawyer with EFF, said most people haven't heard about this because few of these DJs, if any, ever get convicted of a crime. [...] Granick argued it is illegal for police to seize property without issuing citations or arrests. She also said there are serious privacy issues at stake. "If we were to find out that the police were doing something else with the laptops, like searching through them or copying the data, we would definitely go to court," she said.

Jennifer Granick of EFF is representing some of the victims in a hearing on Tue, Dec 1 at 9AM in Department 18 at 850 Bryant. She says:

"The most probable outcome is that the Court orders our clients' laptops returned and that's that. However, I've filed papers asking for an accounting and injuction, in hopes of having evidentiary hearing where I will put on witnesses to try to show the Court and the public that there is a bigger problem here that merely returning our stuff won't fix. [...] If you'd like to show up and watch the hearing, it would be great to have you."

It's not even clear that any these parties where laptops were being stolen were illegal. They were invitation-only parties in people's homes.

Many of you are having people over today for Thanksgiving. Did you get a permit?

10 Responses:

  1. ioerror says:

    Un-fucking believable.

  2. Something jwz quoted gives me pause:

    Granick argued it is illegal for police to seize property without issuing citations or arrests. .... "If we were to find out that the police were doing something else with the laptops, like searching through them or copying the data, we would definitely go to court," she said.

    Now, I don't live in the US and my grip on US search and seizure laws is a little fuzzy, but isn't the police seizing property flatly against the law unless it's in the course of a criminal investigation? If so, why would an EFF lawyer limit herself to talking about the privacy implications?

  3. netsharc says:

    I wish you quitting the USA (or just SF?) would have such a big impact as your comments on Palm Pre development. I hear Iceland is cheap nowadays, and have an awesome night life.

    Well, all I can say, I'm glad I don't live there.

  4. ladyguardian says:

    House parties now? How big are these parties that they are getting busted? Are their neighbours just mad about not getting invited? This sounds more ridiculous the more I hear about it.