By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media
A little over a month after San Franciscans ousted uber-liberal District Attorney Chesa Boudin in the June 7 primary, an effort to remove another progressive big city top cop, Los Angeles County DA George Gascon, moved one step closer to becoming a reality.
Last week, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s office announced that it had verified enough signatures in a random sampling of people supporting the petition to recall Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. That number meets the threshold that authorizes the clerk’s office to move forward with the recall process which should be completed by August 17.
In San Francisco, newly appointed San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, 40, relieved 15 staffers from their duties, nearly one week after she was sworn into office.
San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed appointed Jenkins to the role.
Jenkins, who is also Latina and one of two Black top city district attorneys in California (Diana Becton, Contra Costa County DA, is the other one), removed employees that worked under Boudin. She hired all-women lawyers to fill key positions.
“I am thrilled to announce new members of my management team of experienced prosecutors that will help our office deliver on my promise to improve public safety, hold offenders accountable, advocate for victims, and enact smart criminal justice reforms.” Jenkins posted July 15 on her Twitter account.
After her swearing in, Jenkins promised reforms.
“As the District Attorney in San Francisco, I am humbled and honored to serve,” Jenkins said. “As District Attorney, I will do everything in my power to restore accountability and consequences to San Francisco’s criminal justice system while also moving forward with implementing progressive reforms.”
Jenkins is a Bay Area native and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago Law School and Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She will serve until November when she will be a candidate in a special election to decide who will complete Boudin’s term through 2023.
“I hear from residents every day that they are frustrated with the state of accountability in our city and have real concerns about feeling safe, but they also don’t want us to move back on the progress we have made reforming our criminal justice system,” Breed stated. “I will do all that I can to work with our new District Attorney to ensure that we can restore faith in the system while staying true to the promises we have made.”
Jenkins’ appointment occurs one week after the director of a highly regarded Fillmore District non-profit was savagely beaten by two allegedly homeless men after he politely asked them to move away from the organization’s front doorstep, according to Rev. Amos Brown, President of the S.F. NAACP and pastor at Third Baptist Church.
James Spingola, director of the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, was beaten with a wooden plank at approximately 11:00 a.m., on July 15, Brown said in a written statement.
“The homeless situation has been out of control for too many years,” said Brown, a former member of the S.F. Board of Supervisors. “We must hold people accountable to the law–whether they are homeless or not. We can no longer indulge in this dangerous situation. We must put the homeless in the right mental health and drug abuse programs, so they are not a harm to society or themselves.”
The entire Fillmore neighborhood, one of San Francisco’s urban centers of Black life and history, has been impacted by City programs that have driven the homeless from the Tenderloin, Civic Center, and downtown into the Fillmore, according to Rev. Brown.
San Francisco has been besieged in recent weeks by crime, theft, drugs, and danger that was the catalyst for Boudin’s recall by criminal justice reform and business groups. Bay Area Black newspaper publications were also critical of Boudin’s office.
Brown stated that the Third Baptist Church has had homeless people climb on its roof to smoke drugs and recently had a catalytic converter cut off a church van used to transport senior citizens. He said nearby Jones Memorial United Methodist Church was victimized as well.
“We need action, not more talk, and more useless programs if we are to improve our lives and those of the homeless. None of us should live like this,” Brown added.
Jenkins was part of an exodus of prosecutors last year who, dissatisfied with Boudin’s leadership, publicly expressed concerns about San Francisco becoming more “dangerous.”
“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,” Jenkins stated. “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.”
Jenkins served as an assistant D.A. from 2014 to 2021. Her assignments included handling cases in the Misdemeanor and Felonies Units before working as the office’s Hate Crimes Prosecutor. She was later promoted to the Sexual Assault Unit and eventually the Homicide Unit.
Jenkins was chosen by the mayor after consultation with community members, business owners, and attorneys, for her prosecutorial and personal experience that “equipped her to best understand both sides of the criminal justice system,” Breed stated.
“When Mayor Breed said the city of San Francisco believes in accountability, but also giving second chances, she could not have made a better selection in a D.A. than Brooke Jenkins,” Rani Singh, a former prosecutor in the D.A.’s office and current attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, and Police Commissioner Larry Yee stated.
Brown stated that he hopes Jenkins can suppress a “situation that has been out of control for too many years.”
“Our streets are littered with needles and feces. They smell of urine and degradation. We need to help these people, we need to help our city, and we need to hold homeless people and our leaders accountable,” Brown added.