As of Sept. 15, 436 individuals held media credentials issued by the San Diego Police Department.
"We're pretty liberal on most of this stuff, we really are," SDPD Det. Gary Hassen says. Under an agreement brokered by the San Diego Police Chiefs' and Sheriff's Association, SDPD is the sole regional provider of press badges.
But some members of the media say SDPD isn't liberal enough and allege the credentialing process is not managed fairly or evenly.
Currently, SDPD's policies are under attack in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a freelance videographer whose credentials were revoked after volatile encounters at crime scenes. Separately, Dorian Hargrove, a regular writer for the San Diego Reader, also publicly complained that he was rejected credentials. The San Diego Daily Transcript has begun voicing its frustration over its difficulties in obtaining credentials for its writers, who cover business and civic affairs. (As of Sept. 15, only one SDDT staffer was credentialed.)
SDPD requires press-card applicants to "demonstrate a need to cross police and/or fire lines on a regular basis." But, the cards have many uses beyond public-safety beat reporting. For example, SDDT editor Joe Guerin notes that many agencies, including the San Diego County District Attorney and some military bodies, require the credentials for entrance to press conferences. Although his staff does not cross police lines on a "regular basis," Guerin says they do need to be prepared to cover catastrophes.
Through a public-records request, CityBeat obtained the full list of issued credentials. By our analysis, many do not meet the strictest criteria of regularly crossing police lines.
For example, KPBS arts-and-culture producer Angela Carone holds a pass, although she only uses it for the rare emergency, such as last year's blackout or the wildfires. Voice of San Diego arts editor Kelly Bennett says she's credentialed for the same reason. Martin Kruming, editor of the San Diego County Bar Association's magazine, has a press pass even though he's never had to cross police lines. Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors, editors of the urban guide Hillquest.com, say they use the passes to bypass street closures to take pictures of community events, such as parades.
Media credentials have also been issued to non-journalists, including staffers from Rep. Bob Filner's office and the San Diego Police Officers Association. So, why not SDDT and Hargrove?
Hassen says they should get back in touch. The policy "is currently being review by all the chiefs again," Hassen says. "We should have a new policy in the near future."