Progressive Democrat Chesa Boudin had to fight police unions and the DNC establishment including Sen. Kamala Harris to land the spot as the 29th district attorney (DA) of San Francisco.
Now almost a year into his tenure since taking office Jan. 8, 2020, District Attorney Boudin is still getting pushback, especially from police unions, as he continues to roll out his progressive policies. Boudin is a former public defender. Many of his policies seem to be helping San Francisco’s Black community.
A recent criticism against him occurred after the death of two women who were killed in a hit-and-run on New Year’s Eve. The alleged driver was a parolee released from state prison in April who had been arrested several times since.
“All of us did what we could, took action to intervene and prevent the criminal conduct that so tragically cost two lives on New Year’s Eve,” Boudin said in a statement. “Obviously, what we did was not enough.”
Troy McAlister was arrested in the death of 27-year-old Hanako Abe and another woman. McAlister, who was allegedly under the influence at the time of the crash and had just committed a burglary, according to police. Boudin chose to refer McAlister’s cases to state parole agents, despite his several arrests since April, NBC Bay Area reported. Because of this move, some are blaming the women’s death on the D.A. since McAlister was on parole due to Boudin’s new policies.
“We’re all disappointed in the outcome,” Boudin said. “The outcome is horrific. We’re all taking a close look at what might have been done differently that could have possibly prevented this and what changes we can make moving forward… It’s certainly too late for the two women who died and their families.”
Boudin has been advocating and implementing a progressive policy platform to target the causes of crime despite objections from police unions.
Before he was elected, Boudin was straight up on his intentions. In the Ballotpedia Candidate Connect survey, he said he aimed to “break the cycle of recidivism and treat the causes of crime at the roots.” He stressed the impartiality of law, stating that “we must end the rampant racism that plagues every step of the process today.” He prioritized promoting “restorative justice opportunities as often as possible” for victims, The Davis Vanguard reported.
Boudin’s initiatives included instituting a Wrongful Conviction unit, employing a diverse staff, promoting transparency through online resources, reducing recidivism rates, and connecting with public health officials to adequately address cases.
Not long into office on Feb. 22, Boudin issued a policy directive that severely limited sentence enhancements including “prior-strike status enhancements,” “‘nickel-prior’ status enhancements,” and “gang enhancements.”
The Stanford Computational Policy Lab studied the effect of status enhancements from 2005 to 2017. “The use of sentencing enhancements — mostly Prop. 8 priors and Three Strikes enhancements — accounted for half of the time served for enhancements,” according to the study. The study found that 45 percent of people serving life sentences in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation under the Three Strikes law are Black.
The district attorney’s policy directive emphasizes alternatives to crime reduction. One alternative was expanding access to (non-criminal justice-based) drug treatment.
Boudin also ended cash bails for all criminal cases. Prior to this, disproportionately high numbers of Black defendants had to sit in jail to await trial under the city’s cash bail system.
Police unions say Boudin’s new policies are anti-police. For example, in December 2019, two San Francisco police officers shot Jamaica Hampton after he allegedly attacked them by breaking a bottle over one of the officer’s heads. Boudin dropped the charges against Hampton and said his office was investigating.
San Francisco Police Officers Association president Tony Montoya disagreed with Boudin’s actions and asked for the U.S. Attorney William Barr to intervene in the case.
The officers were doing their job, Montoya said. “They responded to a distraught resident who said a person had just broken down their front door. While they were in the area, they encountered Mr. Hampton. They were simply going to go talk to him to see if he was involved, and he’s the one who immediately ambushed the officer in the passenger side of the vehicle that led to the subsequent officer-involved shooting.”
Hampton survived being shot by the police but had to have his leg amputated. In December, Hampton and the officer who shot him, Christopher Flores, were both indicted by a grand jury, Fox KTVU reported. Community activists say Hampton was profiled by police.
“Boudin has expressed his commitment to helping minority communities that are disproportionately impacted at the hands of law enforcement,” The Davis Vanguard reported.
Like his campaign to run for office, Boudin’s new directives are facing opposition. It was a hard fight to win the election fighting against his city’s Democratic machine.
The attacks and apparent backroom scheming by both the mayor’s office and San Francisco’s police unions could have thrown the election to Boudin’s establishment-backed opponent, The Nation reported in November 2019.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.
Kamala Harris backed Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus in the DA race against Boudin. Loftus had been president of the San Francisco Police Commission from 2012 to 2016 and worked under Harris when Harris was DA and attorney general, The Appeal reported.
Local law enforcement played hard against DA Boudin, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Police and the police unions spent more than $650,000 campaigning against Boudin.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association said in a campaign mailer, “Chesa Boudin: The #1 Choice of Criminals and Gang Members! Say No to Chesa Boudin,” The association donated $3,500 to a pro-Loftus political action committee, The Policy reported.
All this opposition did not stop DA Boudin from being voted into office, and it does not seem to have stopped him from pushing his progressive policies.