Candidates include the current appointed prosecutor, a frequent critic of the police department and a former police officer who calls himself both tough on crime and a reformer.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (CN) – Mired in a dispute over how to tackle crime and reform as leaders demand tougher policies for visible drug use and homelessness, voters in San Francisco now have five candidates in a contentious race for district attorney.
Even before the Mayor of London Breed chose Brooke Jenkins to replace DA Chesa Boudin after her recall, the city’s political climate was heated by frenzied debates over whether there was an increase in crime and homelessness. The recall blamed Boudin and even claimed his policies contributed to a homelessness and opioid crisis. But coalitions opposed to the recall and Bay Area criminal law experts have called the effort a $5 million conservative move to change the city’s approach to criminal justice.
Boudin announced last week that he would not be running to reclaim his job from former critic Jenkins.
“I choose to put my family first: I will not stand for election in 2022”, he tweeted.
Jenkins garnered endorsements in November from Democrats in San Francisco who did not support the recall, including State Senator Scott Wiener. She says her goal is not “an extreme like the war on drugs” and said her policies include treatment options in addition to renewed arrest strategies designed to “suppress” various categories of crime.
She was criticized for firing most of Boudin’s employees, and others backed out of her tougher petty crime and homelessness policies. City attorneys and the Public Defender’s Office said his position stemmed from a return to failed drug war policies, and the researchers call those policies a political pushback for San Francisco that could be politically risky for Breed and Jenkins. .
A spokesperson for Jenkins’ campaign did not return a request for comment before press time.
Outspoken attorney John Hamasaki is officially challenging Jenkins, after claiming his policies will increase incarceration and police violence against residents.
He’s been a well-known critic of the police service union since his days on the Police Commission, publicly arguing with the police chief about how different cases were handled. The commission received calls for his removal citing his Twitter posts, and he decided to step down from the commission and be eligible for another term last April, saying there was not enough will to change the “culture of corruption and brutality” of the San Francisco Police Department.
Hamasaki said by phone that he wants the prosecutor’s office to seek justice and public safety – which he said has been framed as the arrest and incarceration of people for drug addiction, mental illness and homelessness. He said these methods have proven ineffective and prefers liability that is “equitable for both the victim and the aggressor”.
He also wants the mayor to have less political control over the prosecutor’s office.
“Having someone independent, not tied to political organizations, the mayor’s office, would allow people to have a functioning DA office without all the politics,” he said.
While he has remained active in the discourse on Twitter, often sharply criticizing Jenkins’ policies and supporters, critics this week pointed out that his posts from February had disappeared. Hamasaki said it happened accidentally when he asked his assistant to “clean up messages with low engagement” and he was “super pissed off about it.”
Another lawyer claims he may have the most experience of all the applicants. Maurice Chenier, who has practiced civil defense law since 1993, ran for the AD in 2007 against current Vice President Kamala Harris, but dropped out.
Chenier wants to represent people frustrated with homelessness, petty theft and burglary, as well as victims who died in homicides during the 2000s. He said he was frustrated at not seeing justice for the death by his nephew, rapper Max Chenier, in 2005, and believes progressive reforms “don’t work” to deal with serious crimes.
“I’m not a partisan, I’m just a person who wants to uphold the laws,” he said. “We need a firm commitment to punish crimes. And then the rehabilitation, for which I completely agree, can be applied by other agencies.
Documents filed at the city’s elections office also show civil rights attorney Joe Alioto Veronese is in the running.
A former police officer and police commissioner once affiliated with the Bay Area Democrats, Veronese said he doesn’t conform to political factions left or right – though he criticized criminal justice reforms on Fox News and supported Boudin’s recall.
He wants to see reform policies like worker protections, an end to no-knock warrants for non-violent crimes, and cash bail reform, but disagreed with Boudin’s methods.
“It’s going to be about getting to work and sending the signal to fentanyl dealers and the mayor’s office from day one that this won’t be tolerated,” he said.
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