By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco DA management team was called into a meeting—by the mayor’s office with new DA Brooke Jenkins. It was described to the Vanguard as an awkward and icy meeting, where the mayor’s deputy Chief of Staff “chaperoned” the new DA, perhaps making it clear who was now calling the shots.
According to staffers as well as other press accounts, the first order of business will be the review all pending drug plea offers that have not been accepted.
In a media account, one staffer indicated that the meeting was held in order to allay the fears of staffers rather than outlining policy goals.
Eric Ting in SFGATES noted “(the staffers) were struck by two things: 1. What they described as a lack of understanding about what managing the office requires, and 2. The fact that Jenkins was accompanied by Andrea Bruss, who serves as Breed’s deputy chief of staff.”
Scott Shafer of KQED tweeted, “In her first hours on the job SFDA @BrookeJenkinsSF tells staff she wants to review pending drug plea deals to decide which ones to withdraw. Elections do have consequences.”
True, but there is an unsaid flipside to that statement articulated by first by President Obama—consequences also have elections.
In his first statement since the appointment, outgoing DA Chesa Boudin said, “It has been my honor to serve as San Francisco’s District Attorney as we worked for a safer and more just city. I am proud of the work we did to serve victims and to bring much-needed reforms and accountability to our justice system. This is work I will continue in the months and years ahead.”
He explained, “I have reached out to Brooke Jenkins to offer any assistance I can provide in ensuring a smooth transition. I am tremendously humbled by the strong, talented team my administration has built, which will continue to serve San Franciscans. I am proud of the new programs my administration has launched to promote safety and justice in our city despite unprecedented challenges.”
Boudin concluded, “I am deeply grateful for the dedicated staff at the District Attorney’s Office who work tirelessly every single day to promote justice for the people of San Francisco. Our work continues.”
The front line of this battle now shifts to the SF Public Defender’s Office.
Mano Raju, the only elected public defender in the state, said on Friday in a statement, “I look forward to engaging interim District Attorney Jenkins in open conversations about how we can all best serve the health and safety of San Franciscans, including reforms and practices to help mitigate and minimize the harm to people who become entangled in the criminal legal system.”
He added, “I strongly encourage DA Jenkins to prioritize opportunities for prevention and intervention over criminalization and incarceration. From working in our criminal system that is plagued with injustices, including a long history of racial, gender, and LGBTQ inequity, public defenders know – and district attorneys should know – that real public safety for all communities comes when we invest in people and in prevention, not in punishment. When we talk about accountability, we must also talk about the accountability of the systems that criminalize and inflict state-sponsored violence on communities who are poor and communities of color, rather than provide real and equal opportunities to housing, employment, mental health, and other support services.”
Jenkins was asked in an interview with the NY Times, “Did Boudin’s policies, in your mind, actually lead to more crime?”
Jenkins demurred, “At this point, I really am trying to move away from a lot of the discussion we had in the recall.”
She said, “But by no means did I ever blame all crime on Chesa Boudin. No district attorney can snap their fingers and do away with all crime.”
As David Menschel put it, “Imagine having this much chutzpah: After leading the campaign to recall Chesa Boudin – and centering Chesa over and over again as the cause of crime in San Francisco – now that she taken over as DA herself, Brooke Jenkins says the DA has not all that much effect on crime.”
He added, “It’s an almost unfathomable about-face. Spectacular dishonesty. The recall PILLORIED Chesa for crime in the city. But now, conveniently, just as SHE assumes the reins of the DAs office, Jenkins disclaims the responsibility that she endlessly placed on him.”
Mayor Breed had a choice—she could go with a unity pick and try to heal her city, or she could pick someone like Brooke Jenkins who would inflame it and probably precipitate Boudin to run again.
Twice Mayor London Breed has had to fill an opening in the DA’s office over her tenure as mayor. Both times she has opted to pour gas on the fire rather than taking a safe route. Why that is, I don’t know. But it is worth noting.
In October of 2019, George Gascón suddenly resigned to move to LA. Breed decided to appoint one of the candidates—Suzy Loftus—to the office rather than a placeholder who was not on the ballot.
As Gil Duran noted earlier this week, “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.”
He advised, “Best not to make the same mistake twice.”
But she did. In the wake of the recall, many have argued that reform is needed, but that Chesa Boudin went too far, too fast. Breed had the option to tamp down on things by naming a consensus candidate that might appeal to the progressives’ demand for reform and the traditionalists demand for more accountability for criminal acts.
Instead, she opted for Brooke Jenkins. Jenkins pours gas on the fire. She publicly resigned from Boudin’s office to join the recall effort and was at times a visible spokesperson for it.
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 commentary from October, the Vanguard noted, “Chronicle Calls Her a ‘Progressive Prosecutor’ but in 2019 the Vanguard Covered Brooke Jenkins Committing Egregious Prosecutorial Misconduct.”
Duran is himself not big fan of Boudin, although he thought the recall was an abuse of democracy. He wrote on Tuesday, if Breed were to pick Brooke Jenkins, “it would be (Boudin’s) moral duty to run.”
If Breed wanted to tamp things down, she made an awful pick. If she wanted to pour gas on the fire in San Francisco, she hit a home run.
Now we’ll see what Boudin does.