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The San Francisco police chief said Tuesday that he respects the news media, but a freelance journalist whose home and office were raided by officers had “crossed the line” by joining a conspiracy to steal a confidential report.

Chief William Scott addressed reporters hours after police agreed in court to return property seized from Bryan Carmody in raids aimed at uncovering the source of a leaked police report into the unexpected death of the city’s former elected public defender, Jeff Adachi.

Tensions are high in the case, which has alarmed journalism advocates and put pressure on elected leaders in the politically liberal city to defend the press.

Authorities believe a police department employee was involved and had contact with Carmody.

“We believe that that contact and that interaction went across the line. It went past just doing your job as a journalist,” Scott said.

He added: “This is a big deal to us, as well it should be. It’s a big deal to the public. It’s a big deal to you all.”

Scott said the primary target of the ongoing investigation is the employee, whose identity investigators do not know. He said the secondary focus is on Carmody, who may have been motivated by profit or a desire to tarnish Adachi’s reputation, or both.

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