As more and more cases are dismissed in the wake of another investigation into San Francisco police officers, so too have the calls increased for District Attorney George Gascón to recuse his office from investigating those cases.
The District Attorney’s Office is often the independent investigator charged with reviewing cases of police misconduct. In the case of eight officers from Southern Station under investigation for alleged warrantless searches and another handful of Mission Station officers under review for items gone missing during drug busts, Gascón himself was the police chief at the time of the alleged misconduct.
So it goes that Gascón would be investigating alleged misconduct that happened under his watch, says David Onek, a criminal justice expert who is challenging Gascón for district attorney.
“The longer this scandal goes on, the harder it is becoming for George Gascón to defend his obvious conflict of interest,” Onek said. “Almost all of these alleged incidents of police misconduct occurred while Gascón served as chief. His clear conflict of interest requires that he recuse himself as a matter of policy from investigating police misconduct cases of officers who served under his command.”
In the case of the Southern Station officers, Gascón said his office does not have the resources to review the voluminous caseload tied to those officers. The FBI is looking into the alleged misconduct, but Gascón said Friday that the D.A.’s Office is also still involved.
“We are continuing to work those cases and review those cases ... so we haven’t walked away from them,” Gascón said.
And in the case of Mission District officers, Gascón said that he is providing information to the FBI and that they would make a decision to pursue the case. In the meantime, the D.A. is still heavily involved with the investigation into the Mission Station officers.
In response to whether there was a conflict of interest in Gascón conducting an investigation on police officers who were once under his watch, Gascón responded by pointing out that there were several different agencies conducting their own investigations, such as the FBI and the SFPD.
“Those cases are being investigated in so many different ways that I think that it should be amply clear to everyone that this is not something that is being swept under the rug or that things are going to be overlooked,” Gascón said. “To the contrary, these cases are probably being investigated in so many directions and by more different people than most other cases ever will.”