Thanks to an undercover reporting operation by NBC Bay Area that had been focusing on the stolen-goods trade that goes on daily at 7th and Market around UN Plaza, one plainclothes SFPD officer was caught on tape telling a group of minorities who did not appear to be under arrest that the department had taken their "picture" and threatening to get immigration authorities involved, to deport them.
The hidden-camera footage was originally part of this segment that aired Friday, May 5, focusing on the sale of "street meat" and other apparently hot merchandise, most of it likely stolen from area stores and being sold at deep discounts. (The offending footage is at the 3:00 mark.) The area has long been known as a black market for stolen goods I've seen a tiny chihuahua with a rhinestone collar being auctioned off here, as well a daily parade of elderly Asian women who sell generic groceries that are not likely stolen, but which they receive through food assistance programs.
The officer, who is one of several seen roaming the area and attempting to dissuade illegal activity (though not making any arrests), speaks to a group of Asian and Latino men, telling them, "I’ve been taking your picture. We’re taking a lot of pictures. We have some fun s**t coming for you guys, just wait."
One of the men can be heard saying, "I don’t do nothing, why do you take picture of me?" and the officer responds, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, wait ‘til we get INS involved in here too, it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to ship everybody back to their own country."
NBC Bay Area reports that their footage has spurred an Internal Affairs investigation at the SFPD involving the officer, whom they identified by his badge number as Joshua N. Fry, a ten-year veteran of the force who should perhaps know by now that INS, the agency, hasn't existed since 2003, and we call them ICE now.
Fry's comments, of course, come at a very sensitive moment for San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, which is under fire by the Trump administration, but which instructs SFPD officers not to cooperate with ICE or to turn over anyone but dangerous criminals to immigration authorities.
SFPD Chief William Scott was subsequently called on to address this incident at a Board of Supervisors meeting last month, by Supervisor Jane Kim. Scott said at the meeting, "Department policy is really clear in terms of, we do not engage in the work of enforcement for immigration laws. It’s very clear if that’s violated then disciplinary matters have been and will be taken."
Public Defender Jeff Adachi tells NBC Bay Area that he hopes this investigation will result in a "strong edict" from the new chief about the sanctuary police, and he says, "This was a situation where the officer did not know he was being filmed and obviously felt free to threaten people."
San Francisco, along with the county of Santa Clara (which later joined the suit), earlier this year became the first municipality to sue the Trump administration over the executive order threatening the withholding of federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. Last month, following a court injunction, Attorney General Jeff Sessions clarified that the punishments would be limited to future Homeland Security and law enforcement grants only.