SAN FRANCISCO--Police here have begun looking into what role officers played in a search by Apple for a missing unreleased iPhone.
Lt. Troy Dangerfield, of the San Francisco Police Department, told CNET today that an internal investigation has begun into determining how officers assisted two Apple security employees in their July search of a home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood for the handset.
A week ago, CNET reported that members of the SFPD and the two Apple employees showed up to the home of Sergio Calderon and started questioning him. Apple had gone to police for help after an employee lost possession of the handset at a San Francisco tequila bar. Apple told police that it had electronically tracked the phone to the Bernal Heights address where Calderon resides.
Calderon told SF Weekly following CNET's story that when police arrived, he told them he had no knowledge of the phone or its whereabouts. He did, however, acknowledge being at Cava 22 the night the phone went missing. A source close to the investigation said police asked to search the house and told Calderon that if he declined they would return with a search warrant. Calderon then consented.
Dangerfield confirmed that police participated in the search, but according to Dangerfield, the officers never entered Calderon's home. After Calderon agreed to the search, the policemen stepped aside and allowed Apple to go through his house, car, and computer.
SFPD Chief Greg Suhr told the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday that it isn't uncommon for police to assist private investigators. "The reason we do civil standby is to make sure there isn't a problem," Suhr said, according to the Chronicle. "Whatever conversations the (Apple) employees had with the resident, I can't say."
An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
Reached outside his home on Tuesday, Calderon declined to discuss the specifics of the incident. He told CNET that he's "talking to an attorney," but didn't specify the reasons for the discussions.
Criminal defense attorneys in San Francisco say that some of the allegations are worrisome if true. According to Calderon's statements to SF Weekly, he suggested that "officers" tried to intimidate him and his family into cooperating with the search. They asked whether everyone living in the house was in the United States legally.
Police aren't supposed to try to obtain permission to search a home by putting someone under duress, said Ginny Walia, of Ginny Walia Law Offices.
Calderon also claims that the Apple security personnel entered his home without identifying themselves as Apple employees. He told SF Weekly that he was under the impression that the group on his doorstep were all police officers. He said he would not have allowed the two Apple employees to conduct the search had he known they were not police officers.
John Runfola, a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, said that police must be transparent about the facts of a search and not identifying who was performing the search wouldn't be lawful if proven true. However, both Runfola and Walia said that because the phone was not found and nothing was taken, there might be little recourse for Calderon outside of filing a complaint with the police.
To pursue some kind of civil suit against the police Calderon would have to show some kind of loss as a result of the search, the lawyers said.
As for SFPD's internal investigation, it is typical in these sorts of inquiries to talk to all the parties involved, Dangerfield said. He said that the department could seek to interview Calderon.
Correction 4:21 p.m. PT: This story initially misstated the first name of the man whose home was searched. His name is Sergio Calderon.