SF Police Rescinding Press Passes
& Denying Renewals
Since early January, I've been requesting a 2011 sticker from the San Francisco Police Department for my press pass that was originally issued to me in 2009. Almost two months later, I was been informed this by Lt. Troy Dangerfield of the press office that a sticker is not coming my way:
I have reviewed your application for a press pass. We have tried to look for you [sic] breaking news stories and verify with Mr. Daniels of POZ magazine, but we are unable to find your current stories. Unfortunately, we will not be issuing you a press pass at this time.
Here is my reply to him that includes background on why POZ magazine is listed on my media outlet:
When I was turned down for a press pass in 2009, I appealed to our then-new chief George Gascon. I explained to him that I needed a press pass for many reasons that had nothing to do with breaking news or having to cross yellow police tape at crime scenes. Also, I made it clear that my primary news outlet was my blog: htt://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/.
After making this appeal to the chief, Lt. Tomioka asked me to send her a few samples of my writing and I shared with her articles I had written for POZ magazine and the link to my blog. Soon thereafter, a press pass was issued to me and the news agency listed on it says POZ magazine, a decision you all made. In January 2010, I requested a 2010 sticker for the pass and Lt. Tomioka mailed it to me.
As you can see from the email trail, I've been trying since early January of this year to get a 2011 sticker, and it has taken the SF police department almost two months to get back to me, unfortunately, to inform me that a current sticker is not being sent my way.
I must object to the capricious way the police department handles press passes, indeed, I would prefer that press credentials not be under the purview of the police. Perhaps the time has come for the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor and others to either add civilians to the police panel that decides who gets a press card, or, that another municipal body such as the City Attorney or Human Rights Commission, with the advice of private citizens, handle press passes in the future.
In the meantime, please tell me to whom I appeal your decision denying me a 2011 sticker. I wish to pursue this matter further.
When George Gascon was appointed the new chief in 2009, Brent Begin at the SF Examiner interviewed him and one of his changes for the department was issuing press passes to more than traditional media outlets, including bloggers. At the time, after consulting with bloggers, First Amendment activists and yes, traditional news reporters, there was agreement the city needed a way to issue media ID cards, but it was not best to leave the entire decision-making process in the hands of the police.
Yesterday, out of the blue, Bill Wilson, my friend and longtime photographer for the SF Sentinel and other print and online publications, emailed me detail about his hassles with the police media relations officer:
Do you still have the press pass that you were issued? I just got a call from a Lt. Dangerfield telling me to send mine back because they have been revoked because I don’t cover breaking news that requires me to pass behind police or fire lines. I know Chief Gascon gave you one. I’m curious whether you still have it or whether it is being revoked also. He told me that I was the 8th person he had called today, but he wouldn’t say how long he had been at it just that he did this in spare tine because he had other more important things to be doing.
After I requested that Bill send me any correspondence from Lt. Dangerfield, Bill forwarded this note. All grammatical errors in the original:
As per our conversation earlier today. We are trying to reduce the number of Press Passes that are issue where the media outlet does not do bring news Police and Fire stories.
Base on a review done by Ms. Lew and myself we determined that the San Francisco Sentinel has not done any breaking news stories in San Francisco since January 2010. Our criteria for receiving a press pass requires that Breaking news Police and Fire stories be written regularly. Therefore, we are revoking your press pass and press parking pass.
I also want to express that your pass is not the only one that has been revoked.
If you start covering Breaking news Police and Fire stories regularly, You will be eligible to reapply for a Press Pass.
There must be a better way for press passes to be issued for the different reasons mainstream news media folks and the alternative and gay weeklies and bloggers need them, and the entire process must be removed from total control only by the SF police department. Stay tuned!