SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin defended his office Thursday against allegations it mishandled a criminal investigation into a police officer's use of force.
During a press conference Thursday, Boudin refuted the allegations by San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott in a dispute stemming from the case of a police officer accused of brutally beating a Black man while responding to a domestic violence call.
On Wednesday, Scott claimed the DA's office withheld information during the investigation that would help clear the officer's name and announced the department would terminate a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the DA's office on use-of-force incidents because prosecutors allegedly hid evidence in the case.
The MOU was signed originally in 2019 in response to concerns over the department investigating itself and allowed for the DA's office to independently investigate all officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and use of force incidents resulting in serious bodily injury. It was renewed in July 2021.
Boudin said the MOU has dramatically improved police accountability, decreased unnecessary use of force by police, and promoted trust within the community.
"One thing that continues to puzzle me ... is why this success would not be embraced by all parties by the police chief by the police union by the communities that benefited from it," said Boudin. "It is an accomplishment for all of us. It is a national example of how to do this difficult work better. They should not simply walk away from the table."
Last week, DA investigator Magen Hayashi testified that under pressure from prosecutors, she misled police investigators and withheld evidence from a sworn affidavit in the case of Officer Terrance Stangel, charged with battery, assault with a deadly weapon, assault likely to cause great bodily injury and assault under color of authority in connection with an Oct. 2019 encounter with Dacari Spiers in the city's Fisherman's Wharf area.
As a result, Spiers suffered a broken leg and wrist, as well as lacerations to his leg.
During the Thursday briefing, Boudin said he couldn't comment on specifics of the case due to a gag order placed by Superior Court Judge Teresa Caffese.
"What I can tell you is that we have done absolutely everything by the book in this case. There is not one iota of evidence of misconduct under my administration," he said. "If someone in my office is pressured to do something that's improper, that's unacceptable and whoever pressured them needs to be held accountable. I am not aware of one iota of evidence, not an email. Not a documented conversation, nothing that occurred during my tenure that could possibly suggest that it is ever acceptable under any circumstances, to be less than 100% truthful and candid. In affidavits, filed under penalty of perjury."
In a letter Wednesday to Boudin announcing the termination of the MOU, Scott said, "It appears that the DA's Office has an ongoing practice of investigations against SFPD officers that includes withholding and concealing information and evidence the SFPD is entitled to have."
The letter also indicated if Boudin disagreed with the decision, he can schedule a meeting with Scott within five days as stipulated in the MOU.
"As is stated in the letter, this is about the essence of the MOU itself, and what that MOU is supposed to stand for," San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said Wednesday night, during a fiery Police Commission meeting.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported the judge overseeing the case said she found no indication the DA's office withheld evidence in the case.
"The appropriate remedy would be to sit down and talk about how we fix those kinds of violations and how we prevent them from occurring in the future. I've had that conversation with Chief Scott many times when SFPD has violated the terms of the MOU. It is not uncommon," said Boudin. "My office has MOUs with more than 70 different city agencies, nonprofits, and corporations that we do victim services work with that we share resources and investigations with. And violations of MOUs happen all the time. What doesn't happen, is politicizing those violations or allowing the police union to dictate who investigates police officers accused of excessive force."
In a press statement Thursday, San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju said he was disappointed in the SFPD's withdrawal from the MOU and urged the San Francisco Police Commission to preserve independent oversight of the department.
"Without this MOU in place, the SFPD will go back to policing themselves, which presents a clear conflict of interest that San Franciscans have long rejected by creating oversight bodies and mechanisms to provide transparency. For a department that still stops, searches, and inflicts violence disproportionately against Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities, the public deserves at a minimum the transparency and protection that this agreement provided," said Raju. "Chief Scott's sudden announcement should alarm the public and everyone who has called for police reform in San Francisco and across the country. We can no longer permit the police to police themselves."
Also on Thursday following Boudin's press conference, Scott stood by his decision to end the MOU, with a spokesman saying in a follow-up email to news outlets the DA's office "has failed to respond to multiple requests from SFPD investigators to take part in ancillary criminal investigations, as the MOU requires."
Spokesman Matt Dorsey said a review of both the transcript from the January 22 hearing in the Stangel case and of the MOU reinforces Scott's "rightness of his decision to terminate the agreement."
"After you read the MOU and the court testimony referenced above, I think you will reach the identical conclusion Chief Scott did that the agreement has been materially breached by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office," said Dorsey.
In a separate federal case, Spiers has sued the city, alleging civil rights violation and assault. City attorneys have recommended the city settle that suit for $700,000.
The city's Board of Supervisors was set to approve the settlement on Tuesday, however, in light of Hayashi's testimony in the criminal case, Supervisor Catherine Stefani requested a closed session meeting with the City Attorney's Office and to continue the matter for next week's board meeting.
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