San Francisco prosecutors will continue to play a key role investigating police shootings and other serious incidents under a newly extended agreement between District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Police Chief Bill Scott.
The agreement, formalized Monday, is meant to ensure the public can trust the criminal investigations that help determine whether to charge an officer who shoots a person, or is involved in an incident that results in serious injury or death.
The agreement puts the District Attorney’s Office, rather than police, in charge of those investigations by giving prosecutors the lead on interviews and ensuring the office has timely access to incident scenes, among other things.
First reached in 2019 under former District Attorney George Gascon, the argreement has been updated by Scott and Boudin to improve communication between police and prosecutors, and extended for another two years. The agreement is known as a memorandum of understanding.
“The ability to transparently and independently investigate an officer use of force depends on having quick and full access to a crime scene and available witnesses,” Boudin told The Examiner. “This MOU ensures that my investigators, an independent agency from the San Francisco Police Department, will be notified immediately and will have access to all available evidence as soon as an officer use of force covered by this MOU occurs.”
Scott said in a statement that the agreement “will continue to assure an independent process to investigate officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and uses of force that result in serious bodily injuries.”
“It fulfills key recommendations that came out of our comprehensive, 21st century police reform initiative — to strengthen accountability and build trust and legitimacy in our criminal justice system,” Scott said.
The news comes after a new state law, Assembly Bill 1506, went into effect July 1, giving Attorney General Rob Bonta the lead on investigations into fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians across the state, including in San Francisco.
While the California Department of Justice is expected to be the lead investigator in those cases, Boudin said it’s still important for the local agreement to remain in place. Authorities don’t always know immediately after a police shooting whether the injured person died, or whether the deceased had a weapon, he said.
“What we want to know is as soon as there is an officer use of force, whether it triggers Cal DOJ’s involvement or not, that there is an independent agency gathering evidence,” Boudin said. “We are absolutely committed to working with Attorney General Bonta and his team if and when it’s determined that they are the lead agency.”