By Jake Romero
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Although Chesa Boudin is months away from a highly publicized recall election, the SF District Attorney’s office is working to negotiate the terms of an investigative agreement with the city’s police department.
Early last month, SFPD Chief Bill Scott formally announced his department’s withdrawal from a memo of understanding (MOU) that had given the SF District Attorney’s Office authority to investigate use-of-force cases against police officers.
Scott claimed the severance was motivated by alleged violations of the agreement by the DA’s Office.
Two weeks later, Chief Scott told the San Francisco Chronicle he believed his officers were “performing well” but said that understaffing was contributing to “serious morale issues.”
The Chronicle published a column just a few days later which detailed the experiences of readers who had seen SFPD officers not doing their jobs, such as witnessing crimes and refusing to act or not following up on reported crimes.
SF Supervisor Hillary Ronen, in a letter to Chief Scott, emphasized that only about eight percent of the crimes reported in the city last year led to arrests.
As for Chief Scott’s comments regarding morale issues, some are viewing this as a form of blackmail and resistance to democracy.
Columnist Lincoln Mitchell suggested that efforts to hold police accountable—namely efforts led by the DA’s Office—appear to be producing the alleged morale issues, with Scott’s comments implying “that police will not, and perhaps cannot, do their job if morale is low.
“If police do not like civilian control and their morale suffers, it shows that the people, not the police, are setting policy,” said Mitchell in his SF Examiner opinion column. “The terms of the blackmail are essentially, ‘Let us police the way we want or we will have a unilateral work slowdown.’”
Both Mitchell and reporter Joe Kukura share a similar disbelief over the morale explanation, highlighting that employees of other labor sectors—particularly essential workers—do not simply stop doing their jobs because morale is low, nor do they have the advantage to offer up this reasoning.
Recently the SFPD and DA’s Office reached an agreement that extends the MOU for 60 days with the addition of an independent mediator who will review the alleged violations of both parties.
Both parties are expected to exchange files regarding violating incidents and grievances by March 23.