Guest Commentary: Why I Jumped into the Race Just 12 Days Ago to Be San Francisco’s Next District Attorney

By John Hamasaki

I want to talk a bit about why I jumped into this race to be San Francisco’s next District Attorney just 12 days ago.

Like many of you, I hoped the interim DA would put the people first, not politics. That hasn’t happened. So let’s talk about who I am and why I’m running:

I came to San Francisco 28 years ago seeking refuge from the anti-Asian bullying and harassment that defined my childhood and youth. Those experiences made me the person I am today. I know what it is like to feel unsafe – as DA I want to help make this city safer for everyone.

I became a lawyer to fight for a more fair and just society for all. I believe that we can have a legal system that reflects those values. But we need an INDEPENDENT district attorney who answers only to the people, not just the powerful. Who believes in safety *and* justice.

I was raised by a public school teacher mom and university professor dad. I had working class jobs – including as laborer, poll worker, service industry – until I was in my 30s and attended law school. I understand the struggle of everyday San Franciscans.

As a lawyer, I’ve have dedicated my career to public service and serving the community. I served a 4 year term on the San Francisco Police Commission, overseeing a department undergoing reforms from the US Dept. of Justice. Police need to serve with the highest standards.

I helped oversee 2 working groups on domestic violence, an area I focused on after representing the family of Cecilia Lam, who was killed by her abuser after police failed to properly intervene despite 5 911 calls.

As the 2020 president of the Asian American Bar Association, I worked to address the rise in anti-Asian hate following the Covid pandemic and the trump administration’s attacks on Asians. Anti-Asian violence is personal to me, I see the faces of my family in each victim.

I was the victim of a brutal attack as a young person., 3 men, one with a wooden bat, attacked me while shouting anti-Asian racial slurs. I felt let down by the police response. He was later arrested by a different police department and went through the criminal justice system.

I came to court and attended hearings, but ultimately my attacker was given a slap on the wrist. His family taunted me as I walked out of court. I lost faith in the criminal justice system to keep me safe. I know that feeling is common and I want to change that.

The District Attorney’s Office needs to both serve and supports victims *and* treats them with courtesy and respect. We need to provide those services in a culturally competent manner with language access for all. Otherwise, victims lose faith in the system and trust in govt.

While violent crime has to be a top priority, I believe there are other areas that we need to build out and strengthen to have true public safety. Wage theft and other corporate crime steals billions from workers each year.

I will expand the Economic Crimes Against Workers Unit and work closely with unions and other organizations whose working class members struggle to keep a roof over their head due to theft. San Francisco needs to protect its working class.

We all know, and likely have been, victims of property crime in SF. We need to hold accountable those doing the thefts, but also focus on the organizations buying and selling the stolen products. Shutting down the stolen goods rings will help reduce the market for those goods.

I pledge to expand the Public Corruption Task Force. For too long, San Francisco has been under the control of people who believe in stealing from the people, not serving them. Corruption and graft created the conditions we see on our streets today.

Going after a well-oiled political machine is always challenging – corrupt officials have too much to lose. But our city deserves a clean government, free from the decades of scandals that have tarnished City Hall. Together, we can do it.

I pledge to be a truly independent DA and only answer to you, the people of San Francisco. The District Attorney’s Office will once again be dedicated to proudly serving the people of this city, not just secretive, big money interests and wealthy donors.

We need to address this drug crisis that is destroying so many lives. But we need to do it based on evidence-based practices, not just press releases and photo ops. We must focus on treatment, services, and housing for those struggling with addiction & accountability for sales.

We also need to rebuild the unit that focused on prosecuting police misconduct. Right now, policing is in a crisis state after nationwide incidents of violence and scandal have damaged the profession. We must hold accountable the bad actors, so that the good officers can work.

I spent 4 years overseeing police discipline cases., I know and understand how to take on police misconduct. Without actual accountability, policing is in a crisis of legitimacy. Good cops want bad cops out too.

Ultimately, I am running to serve the people of San Francisco, as I have done my entire career. It would be an honor and privilege to be the next District Attorney of San Francisco. I hope you will join me in this fight to take back our city.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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