Criminal Justice Policy in SF Upside Down Under New SF District Attorney

Criminal Justice Policy in SF Upside Down Under New SF District Attorney

It’s been recently said that with Chesa Boudin as district attorney, San Francisco has two public defenders: Manohar Raju, the appointed public defender, and Boudin, the former public defender who critics might say acts more like a legal advocate for the accused than the prosecutor he’s supposed to be.

Though Boudin has been in office since only January, some have already had enough. A recall effort seems to be taking root on Twitter.

“San Francisco is a shining city on a hill. We deserve a better District Attorney. Our campaign is coming soon,” says a tweet posted Sunday evening.

As of Tuesday morning, the tweet had 162 “Likes,” had been retweeted 36 times, and prompted some interesting responses, such as:

  • I’ll sign up! This can’t happen fast enough.
  • How can we make this happen? I know lots of folks (many who’ve been victimized in SF) willing to donate.
  • Having Chesa in DA Office is like putting an anti-vaxxer in charge of CDC.
  • People actually voted to be less safe. Baffling.
  • San Francisco WAS a shining city. That light was long ago extinguished by woke politics.

Boudin, the son of imprisoned radicals who grew up with the subversive Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, was elected despite — or maybe because of — his promise that he wouldn’t prosecute quality-of-life crimes, such as “public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc.,” nor would he require defendants to post cash bail unless they are considered public safety or flight risks.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association called Boudin, who narrowly made it into office with a little more than 50% of the vote over incumbent Suzy Loftus, the no. 1 candidate of choice for “criminals and gang members” during the campaign. The gap between the “prosecutor” and police was widened even further when, during Boudin’s election night party, Sandra Lee Fewer, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, raised her middle finger toward the sky and led the celebrants in an “[expletive] the POA (Police Officers Association)” chant.

Months later, San Francisco law enforcement officers and residents who believe their city is turning into a Third World slum have seen quite a few instances that confirm their reservations about Boudin:

  • Within days of taking office, he fired seven experienced prosecutors, who “apparently … were just putting too many bad guys behind bars,” says former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. He quickly hired two attorneys from the public defender’s office as replacements. Of course, the firings and hirings are his prerogative. Ensuring public safety, however, is not. That’s his duty, which he doesn’t appear to take seriously.
  • Boudin was also quick to implement a policy in which the primary caregiver parents of minor children who committed misdemeanors — and some felonies — will be placed in a diversion program. It’s not hard to imagine that this could encourage rather discourage criminal activity.  “My experience,” writes Kerik, “tells me it won’t be good for public safety in San Francisco.”

Watching the recall movement won’t be a dull game. But though it might not lack in zeal and a growing dissatisfaction, competing with the machine that hopes to remake criminal prosecution practice across country, not necessarily for policy objectives but to destabilize communities, will be challenging. The efforts to put Boudin in office will be matched by the efforts to keep him there. And there he will stay as long as it’s more important for a majority of San Francisco residents to regard themselves as uncompromising progressives than it is for them to be safe.

Kerry Jackson is the author of the 2019 book, Living in Fear in CaliforniaHe is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

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