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News + PoliticsCity HallBreed names Jenkins as new DA; now will the media hold her...

Breed names Jenkins as new DA; now will the media hold her accountable?

Let's see if a 'tough-on-crime' prosecutor gets a pass from the critics who hounded Chesa Boudin.

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Brooke Jenkins, who helped fulfill the mayor’s clear agenda when she promoted the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, got her reward today when the mayor named her as Boudin’s replacement.

Jenkins became a high-profile player in the recall effort after she quit her job in Boudin’s Office, saying in effect that he wasn’t tough enough on crime.

That fits Breed’s recent stance; she has become more and more insistent on hiring cops, cracking down on low-level crime, and putting people in jail.

Jenkins, here on the Bill Maher show, was the face of the Boudin recall.

So now Jenkins will get to carry out those policies—to the extent that she can—and Breed will, finally, have to take some responsibility for public safety after a year of blaming everything on the DA.

At this point, the mayor controls the Police Commission and the chief, and has appointed a DA.

But crime in San Francisco isn’t going to magically stop. In fact, Joe Eskenazi at Mission Local points out that the Sheriff’s Office is so badly understaffed that they can’t manage the existing jail population. So putting more people in the local lockup on, for example, small-time drug sales isn’t going to work terribly well.

We all know, of course, that a big problem with, say, car break-ins is that the cops never catch anyone. The overall rate of crime-solving at SFPD is low. And the city can’t arrest its way out of opioid overdoses.

So now comes the real political question: Will the local news media that went after Boudin viciously and created a false furor that led to the recall hold the new DA accountable?

Boudin was criticized for the high turnover in his office, although that’s not uncommon when a new person takes over a large operation. I would be very surprised if at least a dozen of the lawyers in the office leave or are dismissed once Jenkins is sworn in; many are former public defenders hired by Boudin, and they won’t want to work for Jenkins and she won’t want them to work for her.

Then Jenkins will find that prosecuting cases during a pandemic isn’t that easy, and that judges will still release people who will go on to commit other crimes, and that the open-air drug dealing in the Tenderloin won’t just stop no matter how many low-level dealers you arrest.

And I wonder if the news media will pay attention.

Already, at least, Michael Barba and Jonah Owen Lamb at the SF Standard have mentioned a few problems with Jenkins record:

Her last case was the murder trial of Daniel Gudino, who allegedly killed his mother while he was in a severe mental health crisis in which he thought she was a demon, according to records reviewed by The Standard.

Jenkins sought to send Gudino to prison for life instead of a mental health facility even after she lost her bid to declare him sane. When the District Attorney’s Office declined to proceed with a retrial on the insanity portion of the case, Jenkins did not show up to court, according to transcripts. She resigned that same day, saying publicly that she had been undermined by her superiors. 

“I would like every San Francisco voter to be aware that Mrs. Jenkins is not progressive and tried very hard, at great taxpayer expense, to send a severely mentally ill man with no record, and no history of violence, to state prison for the rest of his life,” said Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon, who represented Gudino.

There will be more. And if she gets the same scrutiny Boudin (who is considering running again) did, there might be an interesting election in the fall.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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