San Francisco DA’s office has launched a new policy requiring prosecutors to review all available evidence before charging any cases involving allegations of resisting or obstructing police officers or committing an assault on officers.
The changes announced on Friday as part of a series of reforms District Attorney Boudin has been implementing in response to the national movement formed in response to recent killings of Black men throughout the nation, also included the announced that Lateef Gray was appointed as the new Managing Attorney in charge of the District Attorney’s Office Independent Investigations Bureau.
“The national movement that has ignited around police abuse has illustrated the importance of having someone who deeply understands how to hold police accountable, and Lateef’s vast experience in cases including police brutality make him the right fit,” said District Attorney Boudin. “Sometimes the victims of excessive force and police violence are themselves arrested, so I have implemented a new policy to ensure we view all available evidence before charging a suspect for conduct involving an officer to ensure the charges are valid.”
DA Boudin has appointed Lateef Gray to head the IIB, an independent unit designed to ensure law enforcement accountability and tasked with investigating and prosecuting cases involving officers who violate the law. It acts as the lead investigator on incidents of alleged police excessive force, including officer-involved shootings.
Lateef Gray, a San Francisco native, has dedicated his entire legal career to representing the underserved and fighting for individuals’ civil rights. He joined the District Attorney’s Office this year after five years as a trial attorney at the Law Offices of John L. Burris Law Firm, where he successfully prosecuted civil rights violations committed by law enforcement including cases involving police brutality. Before joining the Burris Law Firm, he spent more than six years as a trial lawyer at the San Francisco Public Defenders’ Office. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and Georgetown University.
“At such a critical juncture in our nation, the need for respect, transparency and accountability on all levels, including law enforcement, becomes more readily apparent with each passing second,” said Deputy District Attorney Gray. “These are things that I have been committed to pursuing throughout my legal career and I look forward to continuing to advance these ideals with the Independent Investigations Bureau, as they are truly needed to achieve community trust.”
See policy here: SFDA Policy Directive-Violence or Resistance Against Law Enforcement
In addition to the appointment of Mr. Gray, District Attorney Boudin also announced a new policy earlier this week requiring attorneys in the office to review all available evidence before filing charges accusing someone of resisting an officer or inflicting force on an officer. The policy ensures that the District Attorney’s Office does not prosecute people for resisting police officers when body camera footage or other evidence establishes that the officers in fact acted unlawfully or used excessive force. The policy also requires prosecutors to track data regarding discharged or dismissed charges to ensure the policy is working effectively.
The District Attorney’s office will continue to prosecute legitimate cases of violence or resistance against law enforcement. The new policy safeguards against false accusations by police to cover up misconduct. Indeed, it is only criminal conduct under California’s Penal Code to resist or obstruct an officer if the officer was acting lawfully in the performance of her/her legal duties and did not use excessive force. This policy protects against false charges being filed and prevents victims of police violence from being prosecuted themselves.
Experts in police practices have praised these policy changes. “These actions reflect DA Boudin’s prioritization of police reform efforts, especially at this critical moment,” said longtime police reform advocate and retired ACLU police practices expert John Crew. “San Francisco has a lengthy history of excessive police force and of very troubling and extreme racial disparities in making arrests for resisting or interfering with an officer. These changes help to advance justice and ensure that police who abuse our trust and violate the law are held accountable.”
The appointment of Lateef Gray and the District Attorney’s policy change in charging cases involving police resistance or assault was also praised by community leaders. “It is important for IIB to have a leader who will fight to address and charge rogue police officers within SFPD, as the Black community has been waiting for justice for a long time,” said Phelicia Jones, Founder of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, and community advocate and activist for Justice 4 Mario Woods and Union Steward SEIU 1021. “Black Lives Matter includes the Black community being included in some decision making when it comes to our community’s welfare, and I am looking forward to working with Attorney Lateef Gray to ensure the Black community is protected.”
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