"Sinking ship": Even progressive prosecutors leave, call for San Fran DA's recall

Just how bad has public safety become in the Chesa Boudin era? Even his fellow progressives have left the district attorney’s office and joined efforts to recall Boudin. Brooke Jenkins and Don Du Bain have joined fifty of their colleagues in walking out on Boudin, and accuse him of attempting to use radical policies that have made public safety a “sinking ship”:

“Chesa has a radical approach that involves not charging crime in the first place and simply releasing individuals with no rehabilitation and putting them in positions where they are simply more likely to re-offend,” Jenkins said.

“Being an African-American and Latino woman, I would wholeheartedly agree that the criminal justice system needs a lot of work, but when you are a district attorney, your job is to have balance.”

Both attorneys accuse Boudin of making San Francisco more dangerous by regularly handing down lenient sentences, releasing criminals early, and, in some cases, not filing charges at all, despite sufficient evidence proving those individuals committed violent crimes.

“He basically disregards the laws that he doesn’t like, and he disregards the court decisions that he doesn’t like to impose his own version of what he believes is just -and that’s not the job of the district attorney,” du Bain said.

“The office was headed in such the wrong direction that the best thing I could do was to join the effort to recall Chesa Boudin as district attorney.”

Not all of San Francisco’s woes are directly attributable to Boudin. The state essentially decriminalized petty theft and shoplifting by declining prosecution for any theft under $950. The shoplifting explosion cited by NBC’s local affiliate is more attributable to that policy change. (See update below.) The rest of the public safety issues are more directly related to Boudin’s radical non-prosecution policies, so much so that even the more progressive attorneys in his own office have had enough. And Boudin fired the less progressive ADAs at the beginning of his term, which explains why head count is down a third at the moment.

Boudin’s not the only recently elected progressive DA to get this kind of criticism. Activists on the Left have made a project to replace law-and-order DAs with radical leftists as a means to achieve their vision of social justice. Those efforts got some serious bankrolling from deep-pocketed progressives including but not limited to George Soros. Boudin got more attention than most thanks to his parents, both former Weather Underground domestic terrorists convicted of murdering two police officers in the 1981 Brinks robbery in Nyack, NY. George Gascón in Los Angeles faces a similar recall effort for similar reasons, but criticism over lax policies and resulting crime waves has increased in many cities that elected these radicals over the last couple of years.

The good news in San Francisco is that voters will get their do-over:

A recall effort against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin very likely will reach voters as early as June, after campaign organizers submitted approximately 83,000 signatures Friday to qualify for the ballot — roughly 32,000 more than required.

Campaign organizers beat the Oct. 25 submission deadline, and city officials now have 30 days to validate the signatures.

If the the signatures are certified, an election will be held next year, and voters would be asked a simple yes or no on whether to keep Boudin in office. If he’s ousted, Mayor London Breed would choose a replacement. It’s unclear if she will take a position on the recall.

“Our goal was to garner at least 70,000 signatures, so we exceeded even our own goal,” said Andrea Shorter, spokesperson for the SF Safer Without Boudin campaign. “The demand was great.”

No one expects San Francisco to elect a conservative to the post. However, even progressives want crime punished, if for no other reason than to keep their other social-justice programs afloat. With retailers closing locations and filth literally running in the streets, San Francisco has become unlivable to the point where those with the resources to leave have either done so or will shortly enough. The tax base that remains won’t pay for much, and the “sinking ship” threatens to ruin any prospect for progressive expansion, even in deep-blue California. Eventually, public-safety collapses generate a harsh reaction, and that may already be building in San Francisco and other urban areas.

Update: My friend Ed Whelan from Bench Memos at NRO wonders if I’m being too easy on Boudin regarding the shoplifting explosion in San Francisco. He points us to this analysis of Proposition 47 from the Associated Press:

The 2014 proposition modified, but did not eliminate, sentencing for many nonviolent property and drug crimes.

“What Prop 47 did was take very low level crimes like petty theft, some petty drug offenses, petty larceny, and classify them as misdemeanors rather than felonies,” said Charis Kubrin, professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine, who wrote a study examining the impact of the proposition on crime rates. “It doesn’t mean, like that Facebook post is saying, that you’re not prosecuted or that you aren’t committing a crime.”

According to Alex Bastian, special advisor to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón who co-authored Prop 47, most shoplifting was already prosecuted as a misdemeanor anyway.

“What Prop 47 did is increase the dollar amount by which theft can be prosecuted as a felony from $400 to $950 to adjust for inflation and cost of living,” Bastian said. “But most shoplifting cases are under $400 dollars to begin with, so before Prop 47 and after Prop 47, there isn’t any difference.”

Fair point and duly noted. That change may have depressed prosecutions by making it tougher to justify felony charges, but it didn’t eliminate the possibility. The lack of enforcement of theft statutes may well be more Boudin’s fault than I initially credited.