SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --The battle between police officers and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon heated up on Monday. The latest salvo is that the police union is taking its fight to the public via YouTube.
This is the first of a series of videotaped sworn declarations by members of the police union. They want to debunk charges of institutional racism and bias.
The DA's Blue Ribbon Panel investigating the SFPD has interviewed dozens of people. Some have been chosen to testify in person before the panel. Others have not. And that seems to be the root of the latest dispute.
"We have the most diverse police department in the United States," said Gary Delagnes.
Delagnes, the former head of the Police Officers Association, is being interviewed by the group's lawyer.
He talks about his relationship with Gascon when the DA was police chief. He said they were close and that he never heard Gascon say anything about systemic racism in the department.
Delagnes also recounts a conversation he had with then Chief Gascon at a dinner, where he says Gascon made racially disparaging remarks.
"There were some things said by George Gascon that were, to say the least, surprising," said Delagnes.
The videotaped interviews will be sent to Gascon's Blue Ribbon Panel, which he formed last May to look into potential racial bias in the department after the racist text message scandal.
The POA decided as well to release the videos on YouTube.
"They ignored our request for the officers that we wanted to testify before the Blue Ribbon Panel," said SFPOA President Martin Halloran.
Lawyers from the commission did interview the POA's witnesses at the union's offices.
But Halloran wants them to appear in person before the panel.
"It would be in an open forum," he said. "And it would be on the record."
The panel says it did invite Halloran to testify in person.
Blue Ribbon Panel Executive Director Anand Subramanian said in a statement: "President Halloran was invited to testify at both of our public witness hearings and he declined."
Halloran says he had scheduling conflicts, but says he gave them many other possible dates.
Gascon was out of town. But his spokesman responded with a statement, saying: "The POA is peddling perjury in an effort to distract the public from a department that is mired in scandal, rather than roll up their sleeves and do the difficult task of working with their members and the community to reform the SFPD.
The panel's spokesperson says the police union is obstructing the process by trying to dissuade officers to testify. Halloran says the officers who are willing to testify are blacks, Hispanics, and LGBT members.