SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Touting the indictment of two gang members following a joint investigation by local police and feds, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California on Thursday blasted San Francisco policies that limit cooperation with federal agents.
"We are all safer when federal and local law enforcement is allowed to work together," said David Anderson, who has served as U.S. attorney in San Francisco since January 2019.
Robert Manning, 28, and Jamare Coats, 26, both of San Francisco, face the maximum penalty of death for their roles in a gang-related shootout that killed one man and injured five others on Fillmore Street in San Francisco on March 23, 2019.
Anderson, a Donald Trump appointee, said the speedy investigation and indictment were only made possible thanks to cooperation between the San Francisco Police Department and federal agents, cooperation that may have been impossible had the two suspects been foreign born.
"The defendants are U.S. citizens, not foreign nationals," Anderson said. "There was no sanctuary element to the investigation, no obstacle to full and complete cooperation."
San Francisco adopted a sanctuary policy in 2009, last amended in July 2016, which limits communicating certain information to federal authorities about undocumented immigrants, unless they have been charged with a violent crime.
Anderson also decried San Francisco's decision to suspend its participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2017, amid concerns the program was being used to target Muslims and investigate people without reasonable suspicion that they committed or were planning to commit crimes. The task force embeds local police in special units with the FBI to investigate local terrorist threats.
In 2015, a Muslim civil rights group filed a complaint about an SFPD officer and task force member questioning a Muslim man at his workplace about a Freedom of Information Act request he filed regarding issues with his trip to Pakistan. The complaint alleges the officer violated state law and SFPD policies by questioning a man based on his First Amendment activity and without written authorization from a superior.
An internal FBI analysis obtained by media outlets the Intercept and Mission Local last year further revealed FBI policies conflict with SFPD requirements by forbidding embedded officers from sharing classified information with the SFPD. Under department guidelines, SFPD officers must report their work on the task force to SFPD supervisors.
"The FBI does not want San Francisco to supervise its own officers through its own protocols of requiring supervision," said John Crew, former director of the Police Practices Project for the ACLU of Northern California. "They want complete control over San Francisco police officers, and they are having San Francisco police officers violate city and state standards."
Also present at Thursday's press conference was San Francisco Police Chief William "Bill" Scott, who said he believes the San Francisco Police Commission should revisit its February 2017 decision to cease participation in the joint task force.
Suspension of the program has deprived the city of a vital tool, unfettered communication with federal authorities to help prevent crime, Scott said.
"Without having this agreement in place, we're limited on that communication piece," Scott said.
Despite the election of a progressive district attorney who has vowed not to apply gang enhancements, which can lengthen prison sentences for known gang members, Scott said the police department will not abandon its gang task force.
"Four years from now there may be another district attorney that decides to do things a different way," Scott said. "The documentation of whether someone is in a gang is not just for now but maybe the future."
Chesa Boudin, a Rhodes scholar and former public defender, was sworn in as San Francisco district attorney on Wednesday night. Boudin, whose left-wing radical parents were imprisoned when he was an infant for their role in a deadly attempted robbery, has vowed to end the cash bail system, stop using sentencing enhancements, not file cases based on "illegal searches" after minor traffic stops, and to hold police accountable for excessive force.
“Join us in rejecting the notions that to be free we must cage others," Boudin said in his inaugural speech in San Francisco.
With a new top prosecutor who has vowed to end mass incarceration and rejects "tough on crime" policies, Scott said the police department will not change the way it investigates crimes and goes after criminals.
"Laws change," Scott said. "People change, but our job is to protect the city. It would not be wise to back off on how we do business because of the DA."
In stark contrast to his denunciation of San Francisco policies that limit cooperation with the feds, Anderson took a markedly softer tone in his comments about the new district attorney.
"I find Mr. Boudin to be smart, serious and thoughtful," Anderson said. "Of course he is the person that the voters of San Francisco chose, and I look forward to working with him."
As for the two men charged with crimes related to the fatal shooting on Fillmore Street, Anderson said the decision on whether to pursue the death penalty will be made by Attorney General William Barr.
"Whether death will actually be sought in this case is something that will be determined in the normal course of the procedure," Anderson said.
According to a newly unsealed indictment, Manning and Coats were both members of the Mac Block street gang based in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood. The two allegedly shot bullets at a 25-year-old rival gang member the 1300 block of Fillmore Street, killing their intended target and wounding five innocent bystanders.
The bystanders included a 27-year-old man who was shot in the spine and is now paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, according to John "Jack" Bennett, special agent in charge of San Francisco's FBI Office.
Both defendants face charges of being felons in possession of a firearm and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death.
Coats is scheduled to be arraigned at 10:30 a.m. on Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim in San Francisco.
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