A veteran prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office has been disciplined after a recent training session in which sources say he imitated Middle Easterners in an effort to demonstrate search procedures.
Assistant District Attorney Jerry Coleman apologized for his behavior to the entire office last Tuesday at an internal meeting called by District Attorney George Gascón, according to two people who attended the meeting and the training session held the week before and asked to remain anonymous.
The sources said Coleman was leading a training session before about 100 prosecutors and police about search warrants and other Fourth Amendment issues, a hot topic in recent months given scrutiny over alleged illegal searches by an undercover SFPD unit during drug raids.
In an effort to contrast protections against illegal search and seizure in the U.S. with those in some Middle Eastern countries, where police routinely search homes with impunity, Coleman donned traditional garb worn by men in some Arab counties and attempted to imitate a Middle Eastern accent, according to sources present at the session.
Those sources said Coleman — whom they described as a respected attorney in the office — did not appear to be trying to make fun of Middle Easterners, but they said his awkward attempt to liven up the training session fell flat. One called it “a misguided attempt at humor.” Another called it “incredibly dumb.”
Coleman did not return a call for comment Monday.
District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Erica Derryck would not confirm any specifics of Coleman’s controversial presentation, but said Gascon had addressed the matter with his staff and “appropriate disciplinary action was taken.”
“There was material presented during a training that was out of line with our department and the city’s harassment-free workplace policy,” Derryck said.
Coleman, a 32-year-veteran of the District Attorney’s Office, was named in 2010 to head the office’s new trial integrity unit, which handles disclosures of police misconduct to defense attorney in cases where officers are called to testify.
He has not been fired, and Derryck did not disclose what action was taken.
The issue may be politically sensitive for Gascón, who as police chief in 2010 had to apologize to local Arab and Muslim leaders for comments he made about potential terrorist threats in the city from those emigrating from Yemen and Afghanistan.