In a show of unity Wednesday on a live-streamed Zoom session, SF Police Chief Bill Scott and District Attorney Chesa Boudin discussed recent charging decisions implicating SF police officers, and the growing role of the DA's Independent Investigations Bureau (IIB).
Both Scott and Boudin appeared to want to show the public that they are not adversaries. And despite some public disagreement over at least two recent cases of officers charged with using excessive force, the two men say they talk regularly, and they share a common goal of creating a safer San Francisco.
The public conversation, hosted by the DA's office and streamed on Facebook, comes several days after Boudin announced assault and battery charges against Officer Terrance Stangel stemming from an October 6, 2019 incident in which Stangel beat a domestic violence suspect near Fisherman's Wharf with a baton — even though the officers did not witness the suspect commit a crime, and he was never arrested for or charged with one.
In recent weeks, Boudin also announced grand jury indictments against both the cop and the suspect in a high-profile incident from December 2019, in which 25-year-old Jamaica Hampton was shot and badly injured by police; and Boudin filed manslaughter charges against former rookie SFPD Officer Christopher Samayoa for the fatal shooting of 42-year-old Keita O'Neil three years ago.
While in the Samayoa case, the officer was almost immediately fired by the department, Scott expressed disappointment about the possibility of pending charges against Officer Christopher Flores, who remains on the force and whose actions in the shooting of Hampton were justified in the eyes of the department.
One of the most recent officer-involved shootings in the city, the October 10 fatal shooting of Cesar Vargas, did not result in any charges from the DA against the officers involved.
"There are going to be times when, there have been times in the past, this is not new, where I may not agree with [a charging] decision," Scott said Wednesday. "That may be outside of the sphere of an officer-involved shooting, or on any case. But, that's his role and I respect that."
Regarding the Fisherman's Wharf beating case, Scott released a statement this week saying, "While I steadfastly believe that officers should be held accountable when they violate the law, I feel just as strongly that there needs to be a balance in holding individuals accountable when they assault, physically attack, or unlawfully obstruct police officers in their duty to respond to public safety emergencies."
Boudin seemed most interested in telling the public that he and Scott are on friendly terms, despite these disagreements. "A lot of people don’t know that you and I communicate frequently,” Boudin said to Scott on Wednesday. "We talk on the phone sometimes all hours of the night."
About the harshest thing Scott said about recent charging decisions was that the department still was not entirely clear how the DA's office came to their conclusions. Scott said that the SFPD was "somewhat in the dark on what’s driving those decisions, and that’s difficult to deal with."
He also said there had been some "growing pains" with the IIB, which had been established under previous DA George Gascon, but has only recently played a prominent role in such cases.
Scott expressed frustration on behalf of officers that too many repeat offenders were being released from jails and getting re-arrested. To that Boudin said he "appreciated" the frustration, and "All of us want to see the jail serve as something more than a revolving door."