By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – Mayor London Breed had a choice on which way to go after the tumultuous recall process. But instead of calming down the atmosphere, she appears to have chosen to dump gasoline on it. The choice of Brooke Jenkins, the former prosecutor who turned into a leader of the recall campaign, figures to ignite controversy.
On Thursday, the mayor announced the pick.
“After a long process, which included several meetings with community members, business owners, and attorneys, I am confident that there is no one better to serve as District Attorney than Brooke Jenkins. She is someone who has the necessary experience to lead this department and, from personal experience, understands both sides of the criminal justice system,” said Mayor Breed.
She added, “We have a lot of work to do to ensure that everyone feels safe in our city. I know that from day one, Brooke will make sure that not only people are held accountable for the crimes they commit, but will also continue to push forward our work to reform our criminal justice system.”
According to a release from the mayor’s office, Jenkins served as an Assistant DA in the San Francisco DA’s Office from 2014 to 2021, “where she worked her way up, serving in the Misdemeanor and Felonies Units before working as the office’s Hate Crimes Prosecutor.”
The release noted, “She was later promoted to the Sexual Assault Unit and eventually the Homicide Unit. Jenkins resigned from the San Francisco DA’s Office in October 2021 as a result of mounting dissatisfaction with the direction of the office. At the time of her departure, she prosecuted over 25 criminal jury trials and completed more than 100 preliminary hearings.”
“I am humbled and honored to serve as the next District Attorney of San Francisco,” said Brooke Jenkins. “As a career prosecutor, I will restore accountability and consequences to the criminal justice system in San Francisco because everyone in our city deserves to feel safe.”
She added, “I also know that holding offenders accountable does not preclude us from moving forward with implementing progressive reforms. As a Black and Latina woman, I have seen the imbalances and disproportionate impacts of our criminal justice firsthand. I have had family members on both sides of the courtroom. My family has seen and felt the impacts of police violence. The inequity in the criminal justice system is not theoretical to me—it is part of my lived experience. Working together, I know we can make San Francisco a stronger, safer, and more just place.”
During her press conference, she said, “Violence and repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to victimize our city without consequence. Hate crimes will no longer be tolerated. Our Asian community can no longer continue to live in fear.”
The SF Police Officers Association, which strongly opposed the election of Boudin and played a critical role in his ouster, applauded the move while taking another shot at Boudin, calling Jenkins “a qualified, competent and compassionate prosecutor who will allow San Francisco to turn the page from the previous criminal defense attorney masquerading as the DA.”
They added, “We urge Ms. Jenkins to fairly hold criminal offenders accountable, provide compassion for those in the criminal justice system who need and deserve it, and to strongly protect and assist crime victims seeking justice. We all want a safer San Francisco, and we are committed to doing our part.”
The pick figures to ignite speculation that Chesa Boudin will run again in November.
Critics were quick to note, “Jenkins previously said she would like to see San Francisco prosecutors regain the power to ask for cash bail, gang enhancements, ‘strikes’ from prior convictions and to charge juveniles as adults.”
In a March debate, Jenkins attempted to claim the mantle of reform.
“I share in the opinion that the system is broken, and that Black and Latino defendants have been disenfranchised and disadvantaged in the criminal justice system throughout the history of this country,” she said. “But what reform looks like is not simply deciding not to prosecute and is not simply that we will not hold criminal offenders in this city accountable.”
“I don’t think we are calling for a tough-on-crime DA. What we’re calling for is a competent DA, a DA that, that places as a priority public safety.” She later said, “Even the most progressive of prosecutors in the DA’s office under Chesa have walked off the job.”
Finally, Brooke Jenkins argued, “It is not simply prison or release. There’s a whole gamut in between that we can take advantage of—that’s not being used right now.”
“She’s just completely off base,” Boudin Campaign Spokesperson Julie Edwards said in March. “This is the kind of Fox News talking points that has become typical of the recall campaign, but does nothing but mislead the vote about Chesa Boudin’s office.
Edwards noted, “The recidivism rate for people who go to jail is very high, bringing that down by providing alternative opportunities in the form, perhaps of job training, mental health therapy, addiction therapy, restitution, etc., can and will make our communities safer.”
She pushed back, “When Brooke Jenkins says that she’s not just lying to voters about the record of the district attorney, she is willfully misleading them about how the criminal justice system works, because the reality is, is that no one goes into a diversion program without the approval of a judge.”
In a commentary from October, the Vanguard noted, “Chronicle Calls Her a ‘Progressive Prosecutor’ but in 2019 the Vanguard Covered Brooke Jenkins Committing Egregious Prosecutorial Misconduct.”
Reporter and commentator Gil Duran wrote before the appointment, “Many political observers think Breed’s decision to appoint DA candidate Suzy Loftus to the office during the 2019 campaign created a backfire effect that boosted Boudin’s campaign to victory. Best not to make the same mistake twice.”
Duran notes that if Breed were to pick Brooke Jenkins, “it would be his moral duty to run.”
He adds, “The only surefire way for Breed to keep Boudin out of the race would be for her to appoint someone he respects—a progressive prosecutor type who did not play a role in the recall. But it’s not clear that will happen.”
It did not happen. Boudin was silent on Thursday.
“Hard to see how this doesn’t push Chesa Boudin into a 2nd run,” Duran tweeted on Thursday. He added, “Brooke Jenkins quit the district attorney’s office because she wanted to send a severely mentally ill man to prison instead of a locked mental hospital. If she’s San Francisco’s new DA, voters will face a clear referendum on the meaning of justice.”