Plaintiff’s attorneys must be battling over the chance to sue Apple and the SFPD on behalf of Sergio Calderón, whose house was searched by two Apple investigators while four plainclothes SFPD officers waited outside. The biggest problem, from Apple’s point of view, is that their investigators apparently failed to tell Calderón that THEY weren’t cops. Instead, it seems they used the appearance of being cops (after all, the other four men had flashed badges and identified themselves as SFPD) to pressure Calderón into allowing them to search his house, car and computer. All this without a warrant.
Apple was in a snit because one of their employees had reportedly lost an iPhone 5 prototype in a San Francisco tequila bar. And the investigators believed that Calderón, who admitted being present at that bar, had taken the phone home. As it turned out, he didn’t have it and their search turned up nothing.
I see a couple lessons in this for everyone involved:
First, Apple, stop giving your vitally important product prototypes to irresponsible employees who drop them in bars. And when it happens, lay off the muscle-headed responses. It totally destroys your anti-establishment cred. You should have learned this the FIRST time around. You have more cash on hand than the US Treasury so throw THAT around to get your missing phones back. A simple sticker on the back of every prototype that says, “Property of Apple. Please return to 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino for a $50,000 reward” will do the trick. You don’t need to threaten people when you can easily buy their cooperation.
With regard to Mr. Calderón, apologize profusely and buy his silence now, whatever it takes. When he sues you he will be allowed legal discovery that will unleash PR nightmares that will impact your brand far out of proportion to the cost of settling now.
The San Francisco Police Department should make a harsh example of its four employees who were involved in this incident. I’m willing to venture that while these four individuals were SFPD they were not operating officially. At least one of the Apple employees was a former San Jose PD cop. I’m sure jobs in the “investigations” department at Apple are highly coveted and that these SF cops were hoping to get their toes in the door for the hiring process. But in doing so they’ve exposed the SFPD to significant liability and harmed its hard-earned public image. They need to be dealt with accordingly.
And finally, Mr. Calderón, next time the cops or anyone pretending to be the cops knocks on your door asking to search your house, tell them to go away until they’ve got a warrant. It’s your right.