SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Chesa Boudin’s tenure as San Francisco District Attorney was marred by battles with the police department and clashes with prosecutors who viewed him as soft on crime.
At the polls on Tuesday, San Franciscans overwhelmingly voted to oust their progressive district attorney. Partial returns showed 60% of voters supported recalling Boudin.
Boudin, 41, is a former public defender. He narrowly won office in November 2019 with a platform promising to seek alternatives to incarceration, end the racist war on drugs, and hold police officers accountable.
Reducing incarceration rates was a personal issue for Boudin. His father served four decades behind prison bars for his role in a 1981 robbery in New York.
But over the past two years in San Francisco, brazen shoplifting, car break-ins, drug dealing, home burglaries, and attacks against Asian American residents left blackeyes on Boudin’s time in office. Boudin’s critics say his policies embolden criminals to commit crimes without fear of consequences.
A heated recall campaign, “Yes on H,” ensued.
Brooke Jenkins, one of San Francisco’s top homicide prosecutors, left the District Attorney’s Office and joined the recall campaign. Jenkins said she quit over Boudin’s handling of homicide cases and failure to support crime victims.
“How many parents will have to grieve the murder of their child in San Francisco and also live with the fact that DA Chesa Boudin won’t pursue justice against their killers?” Jenkins wrote on Twitter. “I left the District Attorney’s office and joined the recall campaign because Chesa Boudin no longer allows the DA’s office to be a voice for victims.”
“Chesa Boudin has been unable to properly execute reform or promote public safety and achieve justice. A District Attorney must be able to do all three,” she wrote.
Boudin banned his prosecutors from seeking cash bail, putting juveniles on trial as adults, and seeking longer sentences for perpetrators with gang affiliations.
Boudin suffered a bruising battle with the San Francisco Police Department. The San Francisco Police Officers Association created a website, “Boudin Blunders,” to expose cases that police felt were botched by the district attorney.
In a recent one-on-one interview with KRON4, Boudin shot back that police made arrests in just 8% of cases. Boudin also slammed police for failing to bring in enough evidence for prosecuting cases.
“About 92% of crimes never do result in an arrest. So we’ve got to figure out how we can increase the clearance rate for police bringing the cases in that 8% of cases that do result in an arrest. Most of the time non-violent offenders are released from custody before my office even receives the police report,” Boudin told KRON4.
KRON4 asked Boudin, “How would you describe your relationship with the police?”
He replied, “I have a great relationship with Chief Scott. But let’s be honest, there are real tensions between the District Attorney’s Office and the police union in particular. These aren’t new problems. (When) our Vice President Kamala Harris took office as district attorney in San Francisco … (Harris) promise to voters that she would not seek the death penalty. And when she stood by that promise, the police officers association viciously attacked her. And so it’s not a surprise at all to see the police officers association trying to undermine me.”
The District Attorney’s Office had to rent a U-Haul truck after police refused to help with a robbery spree bust in May.
The bust was the result of an undercover auto burglary operation conducted by the DA’s office called “Operation Bulldog.” The DA task force found 1,000 items of stolen property and evidence inside a boba tea shop in the Tenderloin. The police department apparently said its officers were “too busy” to send any vehicles, so the DA’s task force rented a U-Haul for transporting stolen items and evidence.
One of Boudin’s “blunders” included the deaths of two women killed by a hit-and-run driver on New Year’s Eve of 2020, according to the SFPOA.
The driver was a parolee who was released from state prison and arrested several times leading up to the crash.
The police union wrote, “In March of 2020, Chesa Boudin cut career criminal Troy McAlister a sweetheart deal by releasing him onto SF streets after being convicted for armed robbery. Upon his release, McAlister went on a months long crime spree and was arrested at least 5 times in San Francisco. Boudin refused to press charges after any of those arrests, allowing McAlister to keep terrorizing our city. On December 31, 2020, while driving a stolen car, under the influence and in possession of a gun, McAlister ran down and killed Hanako Abe & Elizabeth Platt, then fled.”
Tracy McCray, SFPOA acting president, recently blasted Boudin for failing to prosecute drug dealers while an average of 1-2 people fatally overdose in the city every day.
“San Francisco is in the midst of a fentanyl overdose crisis and Chesa Boudin is missing in action when it comes to holding dealers accountable and addressing one of the largest open-air drug markets in the country. Chesa Boudin has racked up zero convictions for fentanyl dealers and instead has worked overtime to hand out free passes and reduced sentences to neighborhood poison pushers. This abysmal record only confirms what we’ve been saying all along, Boudin has a criminals-first agenda that puts our entire city’s safety at risk,” McCray wrote.
Boudin’s critics included family members of high-profile homicide victims. Emma Jane Hunt, 32, was fatally shot three times in the Tenderloin in January of 2020 while she tried to defend herself with a milk crate, according to her family.
Police detectives arrested two of Hunt’s suspected killers, but Boudin declined to file charges. After the teenaged suspects were released from custody, one of the suspects “was back out on the street bragging that he shot Emma,” Hunt’s father said.
Safer SF Without Boudin campaign chair Mary Jung told KRON4 on Wednesday that voters sent a clear message.
“We are grateful to the brave victims, families of victims, former assistant district attorneys, and victims advocates who showed true courage by speaking out about their first-hand experiences of Boudin’s failed leadership,” Jung told KRON4.
“San Francisco voters sent a clear message that they want a District Attorney who prioritizes public safety for every community. Election results show that San Franciscans and Democrats of all stripes, from every neighborhood, want new leadership to manage a DA’s office that has been in chaos. San Franciscans want leadership that holds serious, violent, and repeat offenders accountable,” Jung wrote.
Late Tuesday night, Boudin remained defiant in a speech to his supporters.
“We have two cities. We have two systems of justice. We have one for the wealthy and the well connected and a different one for everybody else. And that’s exactly what we are fighting to change,” Boudin said.
Boudin said he was outspent by “right-wing billionaires,” and voters were frustrated by a city government that failed to deliver on safety, housing and equity.
What’s next after Boudin?
Mayor London Breed will pick Boudin’s replacement after the election results are certified by the elections office.
On Wednesday the mayor told reporters that she has not made a decision on who will be San Francisco’s next top prosecutor.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, judges, lawyers, community members, people who I grew up with who went to jail for things they never did. Getting this well-rounded perspective of people on both sides is so important to making a decision like this,” Breed said.
The mayor was asked if she has a shortlist of potential candidates.
“I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have a list. I would say that there are a lot of people who have reached out to my office to express interest,” Breed replied.
The San Francisco Department of Elections must certify the election by June 23.
The Board of Supervisors must declare the certified results at their June 28 board meeting.
Ten days after the declaration, a vacancy is created. That means there would be a vacancy in the DA’s office on July 8.
Starting July 8, a new district attorney selected by the mayor can take office.
San Francisco could get a new district attorney before July 8 only if Boudin decides to resign immediately.
Boudin could seek re-election in November when the race is back on the ballot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.