San Francisco DJs at underground parties in SOMA are claiming that their equipment is being unfairly seized, and in some cases being held beyond a reasonable amount of time, by the San Francisco Police Department. A national electronic-rights organization is investigating the claims.
Over the past six months, music fans who have been spinning records — or even just attending friends' events — claim their laptops, soundboards, and mixers have been taken by the cops in police raids. The busted gatherings include an illegal dance party, an artist fundraiser, and a private Halloween bash. While it's unclear whether the lack of official permits was enough reason to close down all these parties, the bigger question is why the police are seizing and holding private property that DJs and attendees use as valuable tools for making their art and living….
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is taking on [DJ's Justin] Credible's and [Matthew] Higgins' cases [who had their laptops stolen by the cops]….Civil liberties director Jennifer Granick says she's concerned about the recent laptop grabs because they've apparently been done without arrests being made…."You can't just go to a party and say, 'You can't have a party because it's after hours and you don't have a permit,' and just take people's property," she adds. She points out that taking laptops away is "a real interference with people's livelihood, whether they are professional DJs or they work somewhere else."
The SFPD gave only a very general explanation for the justification behind cops removing computers and other gear from party scenes. "They're being taken as evidence as part of the allegation of the complaint that's taken place and/or crime that's taken place," says Sergeant Wilfred Williams, who adds that arrests don't have to be made for property to be seized. He explains that sometimes people are simply cited, and then equipment believed to have been used to promote a party is booked into evidence.
The EFF's web site.