SFPD chief, D.A. downplay differences, say they’re united to make city safer

San Francisco's district attorney and police chief say they're on the same side when it comes to criminal justice, even if they don't always agree on charging decisions. In an event streamed live on Wednesday, the district attorney and police chief downplayed their differences, saying they're working toward the same goal: a safer city.

In the latest high-profile charging of a police officer, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin's office charged Officer Terrence Stangel with assault and battery following the 2019 arrest of Dacari Spiers, who matched the description of a man who was beating up a woman.

Stangel is the third SFPD officer to be charged with a felony in the last month, two others are facing homicide charges.

The police chief said he doesn't always agree with the DA office's charging decisions.

"There are going to be times when, there have been times in the past, this is not new, where I may not agree with that decision," said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott. "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."

The chief has released a statement saying officers need to be held accountable, but "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.”

The district attorney said he ran on a platform that no one is above the law, and promised to review cases where officers are accused of unlawful use of force.

"We want to provide transparency in the decisions in these cases," said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. "Now, I have prioritized, as I promised I would on the campaign trail, working quickly on IAB cases. So that we can give answers, yes or no whether we're charges cases as quickly as possible."

While the city's top law enforcement officials differ in some areas, they say there is much they agree on, including the need to dispel the reputation that San Francisco won't pursue charges in many criminal cases.

Police officers often voice their frustration at seeing repeat offenders.

"If you see a guy that you arrested three or four times in the last month and here we go again, I just arrested this guy last week, there's a frustration there," said Chief Scott. "But, there's a professional and a right way to handle that."

"I certainly appreciate the frustration that officers make an arrest, make a report, present the case and feel like nothing has changed," said Boudin. "All of us want to see the jail serve as something more than a revolving door."

One other area where the DA and chief say they see eye to eye is focusing their attention on the skyrocketing number of burglaries in San Francisco since the shelter-in-place orders, saying the surge was unexpected and police and prosecutors are working to arrest and convict serial burglars.