San Francisco: 'Cops Gone Wild' filmmaker sues for lost pay
Julian Guthrie, Chronicle Staff Writer
Copyright 2006 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The officer at the center of the recent "Cops Gone Wild" video controversy filed a lawsuit Thursday against the San Francisco Police Department, saying he had been unlawfully suspended without pay.
Officer Andrew Cohen, an amateur filmmaker whose video skits were decried as sexist and racist by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief Heather Fong, is seeking back pay for the week he was suspended and a declaration from the court that the chief must follow due process.
Cohen, 39, a 10-year police veteran, made the videos and put them on his Web site. He was suspended in December along with 23 other officers from the Bayview station who department officials believed were involved in producing the videos. The officers were soon reinstated.
"This was a case where the police chief and the mayor ran amok, and based upon the hysteria they created, they decided they could suspend the rules," said Cohen's attorney Michael Rains. "We are asking for a declaration from the court that makes it clear to the chief that the rules really do apply."
Rains said the City Charter dictates that officers cannot be suspended until disciplinary charges have been filed and a hearing is pending before the Police Commission.
Police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said Thursday that the disciplinary investigation of Cohen and other officers is continuing. He declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
A spokesman for Newsom also declined to comment.
Cohen's video skits depicted such things as an officer running over a homeless woman and an officer pulling over a female motorist and ogling her. Cohen said he intended to show them at the Bayview station's Christmas party, but when the station captain said no, he put them on his Web site instead.
When reporters started making inquiries about the videos, Newsom and Fong called a press conference to denounce them. Fong said they showed "shameful and despicable acts" by her officers, and called it a dark day for the department.
Cohen was suspended without pay Dec. 8 and returned to work eight days later. He was reassigned to the police records room.
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