Prosecutors Like SF’s Boudin Talk about Credibility – SFPD Officer Returns to Patrol after Judge Tosses Case, Suggesting Officer Lied


By Juliet Bost

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Police Department reassigned Officer Nicholas M. Buckley to patrol duty despite a federal judge throwing out a criminal case because of his false testimony.

Officer Buckley previously worked a “non-public contact” position after U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer found his March 2016 testimony “entirely inconsistent (with) and contradictory (to)” surveillance video footage, prompting a dismissal of federal gun charges.

Questionable officer credibility poses a risk to the relationship between law enforcement and prosecutors, who rely on trust in credible evidence and testimony in cases.

“There are lots of reasons why we might not be able to secure a conviction in a particular case,” SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin said, and “we never want to be in a position where we have to dismiss a case we could otherwise prosecute because there’s a dirty cop in the middle of it.”

Boudin launched a new policy last June that seeks to address the issue of officer credibility and prosecutor reliance on a single officer’s testimony. This policy requires prosecutors to thoroughly review all available evidence before filing charges, including an officer’s disciplinary history.

Boudin announced this policy in the wake of mounting support for police accountability and attention to the disproportionate killings of Black men at the hands of law enforcement.

“We have seen across the country repeated instances of police violence inflicted upon people of color and the Black community – often by officers with prior known misconduct, yet whose words prosecutors continued to trust in filing charges,” Boudin said.

“This directive ensures that members of the public are not wrongly or unfairly accused by officers whom we know have displayed the kind of misconduct that permanently damages their credibility or the trust we place in them,” Boudin added.

In Buckley’s case, he testified he and a partner arrested a man, Brandon Simpson, for illegal possession of a firearm while breaking up a gambling game on the corner of Taylor and Eddy Streets in December 2015.

Buckley reported Simpson had “acted aggressively” and “had his hands concealed as he walked away,” leading officers to suspect he was armed.

But surveillance video footage showed that Simpson’s hands were exposed and one even held a water bottle, contradicting Buckley’s sworn testimony.

The footage also showed Buckley and his partner did not wait for the suspect to back up and physically restrained and arrested Simpson, further contradicting his statement.

Breyer dismissed the federal gun charges against Simpson in light of the video, expressing his disappointment in the conduct.

“The worst thing in the world for any judge and any prosecutor is the conviction of an innocent person, or the conviction of a person based upon perjured testimony, because it goes to the very heart of a justice system, which to be successful must be accepted by the citizens or the population of any country,” Breyer said at the time, and the SF Examiner posted.

“And when that is brought into serious question, then the affront is to all of us,” the judge added.

Buckley was transferred to Bayview Station last October, where he continued “making arrests, collecting evidence and taking incident reports.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California then took up the case of possible perjury, but later closed the case without filing any charges.

SFPD also opened an administrative review through the Internal Affairs Unit, although the results of that investigation have not been disclosed.

However, the SF Examiner found, “Buckley’s testimony does not appear to have resulted in an investigation by the Department of Police Accountability,” who cited the expiration of a one year limitation on disciplinary action.

Watchdog agencies, like the DPA and SFPD’S IAU, have one year from the time of a filed complaint to investigate and discipline an officer, DPA Director Paul Henderson explained.

But the one year period had expired by the time the DPA received the complaint, preventing the DPA from taking any investigative action.

This is not the first DPA investigation into Officer Buckley’s testimonial credibility.

The Department of Police Accountability previously investigated Buckley for “wrongdoing,” including excessive force, during the November 2014 arrest of a man for public intoxication.

In the official police report, Buckley stated the man resisted arrest while being detained for public intoxication, leading to an escalation of violence, resulting in the man’s bloody nose and mouth and injuries to his wrist.

The man, whose name was redacted in the documentation, filed a complaint three months later alleging Buckley tightened the handcuffs until his wrist was “numb,” supported by photographs of his injured wrist and hospital records.

While Buckley denied hearing the man complain and claimed the handcuffs weren’t too tight, the DPA “had suspicions about the veracity of Buckley’s claims,” according to the SF Examiner.

“There are significant inconsistencies between Officer Buckley’s statements about the handcuffs and whether (the suspect) complained about them and other, reliable evidence,” investigator J. Wechter wrote in October 2015, adding, “These inconsistencies raise questions about Off. Buckley’s credibility.”

Even after the DPA’s investigation, it was still “unclear” whether Buckley was placed on the Brady list, a “secret list” police share with prosecutors to keep “untrustworthy officers” from testifying.

The Brady list was named for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brady v. Maryland, which included information on officers with questionable credibility in the scope of evidence that law enforcement must turn over to the defense.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit found in April 2019 that SFPD’s own confidential list contained 133 officers whose disciplinary histories could pose problems to their credibility if called to provide testimony in a case, including “several in supervisor ranks.”

Juliet Bost is a third year at UC Davis, majoring in Political Science – Public Service and minoring in Religious Studies. They are originally from San Mateo, California. They are a member on the Chesa Boudin Recall – Changing the Narrative Project.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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