The election of former public defender Chesa Boudin as district attorney has spurred officers with the police union to call for an end to an agreement that gave the District Attorney’s Office control over criminal investigations into police shootings.
At a recent meeting with Police Chief Bill Scott, members of the San Francisco Police Officers Association pressured the chief to withdraw from the deal over concerns that Boudin cannot be “neutral and unbiased” while investigating police.
Boudin, the child of radicals who were imprisoned for a robbery that led to the deaths of two police officers and a security guard, has pledged to hold police accountable and questioned the decision not to charge the officers who shot Mario Woods.
Boudin defended his impartiality in an email to the San Francisco Examiner this week.
“I will work to hold anyone who breaks the law and causes harm accountable, including police officers,” said Boudin, who will be sworn in to office on Wednesday. “That’s the essence of fairness and neutrality.”
The agreement at issue made the District Attorney’s Office Independent Investigations Bureau the lead investigator for criminal probes into police shootings, in-custody deaths and use-of-force cases that result in serious bodily injury.
Scott and former District Attorney George Gascon entered into the long-anticipated memorandum of understanding last May in an effort to make investigations into police shootings more independent.
First drafted by Gascon in 2016, the agreement took some three years to negotiate between police, prosecutors and the police union, which had from the start portrayed the DA’s takeover as the lead investigative agency as a “power grab” by Gascon.
In a 2016 statement, former SFPOA President Martin Halloran said that Gascon “can’t be entrusted with this role.”
“He has a poisonous relationship with the San Francisco Police Department, and he is too self-promoting and biased against cops to be fair and impartial,” Halloran said.
Neither current SFPOA President Tony Montoya nor Scott responded to requests for comment this week.
But according to minutes from the November meeting included in a recent edition of the SFPOA Journal, Scott told officers that he did not intend to cancel the agreement, and wanted to give Boudin a chance before making changes.
Both the police chief and the district attorney have the discretion to pull out of the two-year agreement, according to the MOU.
Scott will soon see how Boudin handles police shooting cases.
While the shooting was not investigated under the new agreement, Boudin will have about a month after his swearing in to decide whether to file charges against the officers who shot and wounded a mentally ill man on his front steps in January 2017.
Last November, a federal judge set a deadline for the District Attorney’s Office to make a charging decision in the Sean Moore case by Jan. 10. The judge later extended that deadline by 30 days at the request of the office.
“The district attorney-elect intends to thoroughly evaluate the officer-involved shooting shortly after taking office and will require more than two days to conduct a thorough review” wrote Cristine Soto DeBerry, chief of staff for the office, in a letter to the judge.
Boudin will also have four other officer-involved shootings on his plate when he takes office.
Those include the March 6, 2018 fatal shooting of Jesus Delgado-Duarte, a robbery suspect who fired at officers from the trunk of a car, and the Dec. 1, 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neil by a rookie officer who was later fired by Scott.
Also awaiting charging decisions are the Sept. 5, 2019 shooting of David Wesser and his dog by a sheriff’s deputy, and most recently the Dec. 7, 2019 shooting of Jamaica Hampton by officers he allegedly attacked with a bottle in the Mission District.
The Hampton shooting was the first to be investigated with the District Attorney’s Office as the lead agency under the new agreement, Scott previously said.