ACLU Northern California Urges No Vote in SF District Attorney Recall Election

Chesa Boudin at the February 15 Press Conference

By Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA— The ACLU of Northern California Tuesday here in a public statement expressed its “strong opposition” to the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

The civil liberties group said it supported Boudin’s “progressive policies aimed at providing public safety, reducing incarceration, and holding police accountable, (which) are under attack.”

The ACLU NC added it supports “public safety solutions that are consistent with the values of civil liberties and civil rights that San Francisco residents share. We acknowledge people are frustrated and angry about crime, but we reject the premise that keeping the public safe means abandoning our values. That is a false choice.”

“The campaign to recall Chesa Boudin is a cynical attempt to slam the door on progress,” said Yoel Haile, director of the criminal justice program at the ACLU of Northern California.

Haile added, “San Franciscans support police accountability and alternatives to mass incarceration. As a candidate, Chesa Boudin promised to enact criminal justice reforms. As district attorney, he has followed through on that promise.”

The ACLU NC encouraged voters to reject voting to recall Boudin, but admitted that the “past two years have taken a toll on all of us. The pandemic ushered in a turbulent period of social upheaval and economic instability. Although experts suggest multiple factors contributed to an uptick in some crimes, critics seized the opportunity to blame Boudin and accuse him of failing to keep the city safe.”

The ACLU NC said the instigators of the recall include the police union and a “small group of deep-pocketed donors who bankrolled the signature gathering drive to place the recall on the June ballot,” and they are “are distorting Boudin’s record and stoking San Francisco residents’ fears about crime to derail reform.”

The ACLU NC noted that DA Boudin has “adopted public safety solutions that work: granting rigorous diversion when appropriate, providing more services for victims, and holding the powerful accountable.”

“Crime is a complex societal problem that requires sustained solutions,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California.

He urged voters, “Don’t let opponents of criminal justice reform turn back the clock to a time when prosecutors believed jail was the suitable punishment for nearly every offense. Mass incarceration ruined countless lives and never kept us safe.”

The ACLU NC noted, “Less than two years after massive nationwide protests over George Floyd’s murder sparked a long overdue reckoning with racism in the American legal system, police unions and their wealthy allies are exploiting our fears and the social disruption caused by the pandemic in an effort to reinstate failed policies that devastated the Black community.”

The organization made a historical argument to voters, remembering “we’ve been down this perilous road before, we know criminalizing poverty and addiction, surveilling neighborhoods, and filling the jails won’t make San Francisco any safer.”

Adding, “Such a short-sighted approach will only exacerbate persistent racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Instead, Chesa Boudin has supported public safety measures that prioritize civil liberties and civil rights.”

The ACLU NC, in its statement, said the stakes in the recall election are high.

“Boudin has implemented public safety policies the ACLU supports that hold people accountable and reduce youth and adult incarceration. He ended cash bail, cut the county jail population, expanded rigorous diversion programs, pledged never to charge children as adults, and created an independent Innocence Commission to review potential wrongful convictions,” said the ACLU NC.

“With these actions, Boudin has sought to keep his promise and fix a broken legal system that disproportionately punishes Black and Brown people. He has also rejected the racist, ineffective mass incarceration policies of the past,” the ACLU NC added.

And then the ACLU NC broached the subject of the SF Police Union, and why Boudin has been, in effect, a problem, and its “fierce opposition.”

“Boudin has upheld his campaign pledge to put violent police officers on trial when they break the law. He filed the first-ever homicide charges against an on-duty SFPD officer, prosecuted a police officer who beat an unarmed Black man with a baton, and refiled felony charges against Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputies who viciously battered an unarmed man in San Francisco. Boudin also provides compensation to victims of police brutality,” reminded the ACLU NC in the statement Tuesday.

And, just a month ago, Boudin made no friends in the union when he, said the ACLU NC, “exposed the San Francisco Police Department’s disturbing history of using DNA from rape kits to identify survivors as suspects in unrelated criminal cases, a practice advocates said could further discourage people from reporting sexual assault. Facing widespread outrage and condemnation from the legal community, the police department swiftly ended the practice.”

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