By Darling Gonzalez
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Joe Eskenazi’s article in Mission Local news here, “Spiers beating footage: ‘This was f***d from the start’,” expressed some striking details about an ongoing criminal trial for Officer Terrance Stangel, who is accused of beating Dacari Spiers eight times with a metal baton on Oct. 6, 2019.
According to Eskenazi’s article, in 2019 Officer Cuauhtémoc Martinez and Officer Terrance Stangel received a 911 call alleging domestic violence near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Stangel and Martinez responded to the scene where Dacari Spiers and his then-girlfriend Breonna Richard were found, separated from each other, with no physical contact.
Spiers pushed Martinez’s hands off of him and a tussle ensued, reportedly, when 10 seconds later Stangel felt it was necessary to use his metal baton to brutally hit Spiers a total of eight times, leading to Spiers’ hospitalization.
The ongoing trial for Officer Stangel is the first criminal prosecution of a San Francisco officer for an “on-the job beating,” according to reporter Eskenazi.
Eskenazi’s article details many officer disagreements with the handling of the entire incident, but he also includes some other officers’ comprehension of why the use of force was employed.
In the article, a retired 30-year officer opined, “I suggest you look at the Department General Orders governing use of force. Stangel’s job should’ve been to help restrain Spiers and give very clear instructions: ‘Police! Stop resisting!’ He could’ve physically intervened and assisted his partner by restraining this person. There’s a world of difference between restraining and aggressively beating the guy.”
Indeed, the San Francisco Police Department General Orders explicitly details the policies and reporting procedures regarding the use of force.
One of the policies in the Department General Orders states, “Communication with non-compliant subjects is often most effective when officers establish rapport, use the proper voice intonation, ask questions and provide advice to defuse conflict and achieve voluntary compliance before resorting to force options.”
Following this policy, the process of de-escalation further explains that officers should use de-escalation techniques to decrease the need to use force during an incident.
Other officers, however, see the situation through a different lens.
“Another officer pointed out that, in the midst of the encounter, Stangel blurted out ‘I got a 148,’ meaning he had someone resisting arrest. Among police, a statement like this in the midst of an encounter is an implicit call for assistance,” Eskenazi said.
A veteran active officer also mentioned that if he was in the same situation he wasn’t sure if he would have hit Spiers with his baton, but expressed that “might have.”
Eskenazi said this ongoing trial has led to a “political circus” because the tension between police and district attorney continues to broil.
Eleni Balakrishnan, another Mission Local reporter, wrote: “DA responds: ‘not one iota of evidence’ of misconduct,” noting SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s statement at a press conference after the SFPD withdrew from assigning the DA as lead investigator in use-of-force cases.
“Years of police violence before the [memorandum of understanding] have made clear how urgently needed this agreement was, to simply ensure that police officers will be independently investigated and held accountable when they violate the law,” DA Boudin said.
Claims of investigatory malfeasance along with other problems between the police and district attorney makes this case as a central ground for “political warfare” as Eskenazi describes it.