San Francisco’s new DA sets stage for police expansion

Interim San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins was sworn in on July 8, replacing Chesa Boudin. Boudin was the target of a high-profile right-wing recall campaign funded to the tune of $7 million by wealthy donors in real estate and finance.

Jenkins has not been shy about broadcasting her “tough-on-crime” agenda. On her first day in office, she told the New York Times, “San Franciscans don’t feel safe…people feel like there’s a lack of consequences here and that this is a safe haven for crime.”

However, crime in the city is down; violent crime in San Francisco declined 29% from 2014 to 2021, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Jenkins’ real motivations have nothing to do with safety.

Former DA Boudin was known for progressive reforms such as ending cash bail and establishing a commission to investigate wrongful convictions. He made powerful enemies — especially within the SFPD — for opposing mass incarceration. The San Francisco Police Officers Association described him as a “criminal defense attorney masquerading as the DA.”

Chesa Boudin with supporters in the community. Wikimedia Commons.

Although appointed on an interim basis, Jenkins did not hesitate to gut the DA’s office, targeting associates of Boudin. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Jenkins fired at least fifteen people as of July 15, including attorneys and staff investigating corruption inside City Hall, prosecuting police misconduct and reviewing sentences.

One fired staffer said that Jenkins had reneged on a promise to meet employees individually, calling the firings a “complete political massacre.” Jenkins’ new hires show her commitment to aggressive prosecution and strict penalties. They include the assistant chief legal counsel for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office and the director of the crime strategies division at the SFPD.

Jenkins in lockstep with pro-police mayor

Mayor London Breed’s appointment of Jenkins, who resigned from her position as assistant DA to Boudin to take a leading role in the recall campaign, underscores the mayor’s alignment with the reactionary elements behind the recall. In December 2021, Mayor Breed, who once promised to shift police funding toward social services, redirected emergency funding to cover police overtime. She instituted a state of emergency in the Tenderloin District, pledging to address drug overdoses in the neighborhood, but really empowering police to terrorize the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Recent reporting by Mission Local suggests that Breed feels empowered to put words into her new district attorney’s mouth. Andrea Bruss, Breed’s deputy chief of staff, appears to have written a statement on the DA’s letterhead, signed by Jenkins, supporting the mayor’s push for expanding police access to private cameras. The measure would allow real-time access to cameras including Ring and Nest doorbells, in what the American Civil Liberties Union calls “one of the largest expansions of surveillance in city history.”

Jenkins stated her intention to reinstitute cash bail, gang enhancements, and the ability to charge minors as adults.

“Tough-on-crime” policies of mass incarceration are as ineffective as they are cruel. The police surveillance measure under consideration shows that Breed and Jenkins don’t act on behalf the people, they act on behalf of the interests of corporations and law enforcement. Even in a so-called progressive city like San Francisco, the pursuit of those interests now threatens to further whip up anti-poor sentiments and erode residents’ civil liberties.

Featured image credit: Chesa Boudin with supporters in the community. Wikimedia Commons.

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