New district attorney unit to become lead investigators for San Francisco officer-involved shootings

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new district attorney's unit will soon become the lead investigators in all officer-involved shootings in San Francisco. They're also getting millions to clear up the big backlog of officer shooting cases in the district attorney's office.

It has been 10 months since Mario Woods was killed in an officer-involved shooting and still no charging decision by the district attorney.

According to a grand jury report released in June that's not unusual.

The grand jury found it takes an average of 20 months from a shooting to a charging decision if there is one.

The district attorney's office blames it on a staffing shortage. "Unfortunately, our office has not been well resourced to handle these very important investigations," San Francisco District Attorney Chief of Staff Christine Deberry said.

On Thursday, a hearing was held by a supervisors committee to make recommendations on the grand jury's findings. "The investigation of fatal officer-involved shootings takes too long and two they are no where near transparent," San Francisco Grand Jury lawyer Eric Vanderpool said.

Now, district attorney George Gascon says he can solve both problems.

The mayor's office has allocated nearly $2 million to fund 14 new positions in his office to clear the backlog of officer shooting cases.

Those in the new unit would also become the lead investigators for those cases, taking the role away from the SFPD. "We can get to work and provide San Franciscans with the type of through independent investigations they'd like to see," Deberry said.

Acting police chief Toney Chaplin wants an outside agency to investigate officer shootings. He's not sure this is the answer. "We are still going to run up against the same issue of us investigating us. I mean, the perception is hey you guys work with the district attorney's office every single day," he said.

The police union opposes the plan. "The San Francisco Police Department has been poisoned by his own hand over the years since he's been district attorney here. He's made it clear his biases towards the San Francisco Police Department," San Francisco Police Officers Association Martin Halloran said.

One thing almost everyone seems to agree on is justice delayed is justice denied.

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