20-Mar-2013 (Wed) Wherein SFPD is still going surveillance-nutty.

We got a funny phone call today, and by "funny" I mean "not actually even a little funny."

Officer Chan, the permitting officer for SFPD, called to remind us that we're required to have video surveillance that records everything our customers do, and to give that footage to SFPD any time they ask, without a warrant or explanation. "Actually, that's not the case, I'm not required to do that," says Barry. "It's a part of the Good Neighbor Policy," says the cop. "No, actually, it's not. And it's also not a condition of our permits."

"Well! I guess I'll have to speak to the Entertainment Commission about that, then!"

Thirty minutes later, Barry got a call from this guy's boss, admitting that while we're not technically required to, we really, really should "consider" it. After some back and forth, he says, "Should I take from this conversation that you're not willing to consider this?" "We have considered it, which is why we fought to have that condition not put on our permits."

Someone from the Entertainment Commission said, "Yeah, it's really weird that you don't have that condition, because they're putting that on everybody's permits now. Nobody else has fought it."

Which isn't surprising, since apparently everyone who works for SFPD is going around telling everyone that it's required by law when that's not even remotely 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.

Remember, they tried to get this written into the law back in 2010 and got their asses handed to them, so instead they've just been making it a condition of every new permit ever since. Because they think that they get to just make up laws, all on their own.

Dear bar owners: you do not have to put up with this extrajudicial bullshit.

36 Responses:

  1. Are they bored or just trying to spend state money?

  2. Good on you guys for stickin' to your guns, matters of principle are too often overlooked.

  3. Devian McEvoy says:

    As far as I know, any contract which in illegal or contradicts the constitution is illegal and therefore void...

    • NotTheBuddha says:

      The part that's unconstitutional is unenforceable. Which, where permits are contracts, is good otherwise the entire permit would be voided and the business could not continue to operate. But if the permit is held to be something else, like an affirmative statement or an acknowledgment, not.

      • gruhn says:

        The trick is to stop operating on the presumption that the permit has any validity.

      • If you put up this camera system under the guise of a permit requirement, and the camera captures evidence that the police later want to use in court, good luck trying to get a judge to throw it away because the contract was "unconstitutional". If it's a public place and the owner volunteers the evidence to the police, that argument will be struck down within minutes during the hearing where your defense attorney proposes it.

  4. A police officer misrepresenting the law in order to strong-arm businesses into compliance should be illegal and should cost that officer his job. If we can trust law enforcement to have ethics when dealing with law-abiding citizens and businesses, how can we trust them with anything?

    Bravo, DNA, for giving them the proverbial finger.

  5. Gordon Lyon says:

    Thanks for fighting the good fight!

  6. Leonardo Herrera says:

    What's up with that guy?

  7. jpoulos says:

    It's a good thing for the SFPD that you don't have a way to reach lots and lots of young activist-type people every night. They could have a PR problem on their hands...

  8. Lars Jorgensen says:

    Seems like if an officer goes around lying about the law he should be disciplined. If his superior told him to do so then the superior should be disciplined. Since it is unlikely that the police will do this on their own it is something I'd bring up with the city council for them to discuss with the police commissioner. Probably won't result in any discipline but could result in a cease and desist order to the police.

    • The police can and do lie about the law to coerce you do to things. They consider it to be part of their job. They are under no obligation to tell you the truth. They don't even have to identify themselves as police. On the other hand, if you present false identification to them, you are committing a crime.

  9. Elliot says:

    Good job Barry.

  10. Turk says:

    Big Brother is watching you, or at least he's trying very hard.

    • Noah says:

      It's worse than that. They are trying to pressure business to pay to watch you for them. SFPD can't do their job, so why not get someone else to do it for them? And why not have them pay for it, too?

  11. Lee says:

    This now makes me wonder how many bars in Seattle are backdoored by the SPD. They've been pushing public surveillance with their new camera system and also blocking the requirement to disclose the hidden video systems which they may use.

  12. Well-played, Barry! Every time someone doesn't fold, things get a little better for everyone. Or at least little less-worse.

  13. Justin says:

    They want to make sure your customers aren't drinking too much soda.

  14. Ben says:

    As manager of the old Rockit Room (now Neck of the Woods), I encountered many of the same problems you have over the past few years. Unfortunately, the ownership I worked under lacked the fortitude to stand up to the culture of bullying and lying that has become prevalent amongst the SFPD and Entertainment Commission, choosing instead to apologize and conform. Now they might as well be out of business. I applaud the stand the DNA Lounge has taken against the SFPD and EC and wish you the best of luck in the future. KEEP NIGHTLIFE ALIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO!!

  15. Mole says:

    Good thing they don't know how to use the interwebs, or they might notice your webcast.

    • jwz says:

      I think you must have never actually tried to watch the webcast.

      • grェ says:

        Heh, still, it's better than a lot of security cameras, is always there and requires no warrant. I always appreciated it in a sort of dystopian "let's decry the watchers, but, you're being watched" manner.

        Besides, someone needs a signals intelligence challenge these days, radar backscatter is pretty old news.

        But yeah, for general use - it seems like it's mostly useful as a tool to see whether it's worth heading down to the club in person. :)

        • Heh, still, it's better than a lot of security cameras

          Isn't this part of the joke? They're going around demanding security camera feeds, but when was the last time that sort of video actually helped them do anything at all?

  16. jr says:

    You need to invite the EFF and ACLU to all events.


  17. any mouse says:

    offer free masks at the door :)

    • Lilly Lynn says:

      Ohhh good idea !! since when can they do things like this without warrants sorry a clubs files/videos are confidential unless they want to release them..

  18. any mouse says:

    so wrong in so many ways.

    thanks for standing up for all the humans on the planet!

  19. Jay Cuthrell says:

    What are the Scramble Suit Saturday drink specials?

  20. Zinc says:

    Aren't these one of the deparments that recently bought drones? And how long before someone making a brutality case subpoenas some of these vids? Be careful what you wish for...

  21. isaac says:

    Just about to open a restaurant/bar/dancehall in Oakland. Permits in place, no conditions so far, thanks for the heads-up!

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