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San Francisco’s progressive District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, claimed recently that he never supported the “defund the police” movement as he faces an upcoming recall election.
In an interview published on Wednesday, SFGate asked Boudin what progressive Democrats could have “done better.”
“We need to do a better job communicating the connection between criminal justice reform and public safety,” he said. “I never talked about defunding the police. I never joined that call.”
Boudin went on to say he thought defunding the police “was a mistake. Because I can’t prosecute cases if police don’t make arrests.”
He added: “We need police to be more efficient. We need our public safety spending to be more efficient. We need to take things off of the police department’s plate, like responding to mental health crises, like responding to drug overdoses. I think if we do that, then we can have higher arrest rates, clearance rates in actual crimes that we need to be able to prosecute.”
Yet Boudin said in July 2020 — at the height of the “defund the police” rhetoric in the wake of the murder of George Floyd — that the movement had “started in critical conversations about the ways in which our country has responded to some of our most complex challenges in how we’ve used police as a one-size, fits all, one-sided response no matter whether we are dealing with an armed robbery in progress or someone having a mental health breakdown.”
He said then that during times of tight budgets this has a “tremendous fiscal cost” which he said “has come at the expense of other investments in our communities.”
While not uttering the phrase, Boudin effectively supports reappropriating funds from police to other services.
He went on to say that people “on the far right are trying to conflate” defunding and abolishing the police.
“We can talk about abolition, that’s a conversation that we can have, people can advocate that as a theoretical conception. People can talk about that as a goal to move toward where we don’t need police in society.”
“The conversation we are having today on a national level is frankly a conversation that I think elected officials should have in the budget cycle,” he said. “Is this the most effective way to use tax dollars? Are we getting a good return on our investment? Is there some other way we could spend this money that could make us safer? Or do a better job of achieving the goals that we have?”
How cities can tackle violent crime and defund the police.https://t.co/UJPEKIBwkB
— Vote NO on H!!!! – Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) August 7, 2020
Now however, polls show Boudin is likely to be ousted in a June 7 recall election and the liberal DA has changed his tune.
“So if you’re someone who’s worried about police excessive force or problems with the police, my view is the answer isn’t to defund them,” Boudin told SFGate. “The answer is to hold them accountable when they commit crimes. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
A new Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the anti-recall campaign found that 48 percent of San Francisco residents plan to vote to oust Boudin, 38 percent plan to support his effort to remain and 14 percent are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.
That’s after a March poll by EMC Research commissioned by recall organizers found that 68 percent of voters support the recall, while only 32 percent opposed. A May poll by the SF Standard found that 57 percent of residents plan to recall Boudin while 22 percent plan to oppose the recall.
Boudin told SFGate that “people are blaming my office for things we have no power over” that impact safety such as homelessness, mental illness and conservatorships.
The liberal DA vowed shortly after his election to promote “restorative justice” and prison reform through “decarceration.”
Boudin’s critics say his policies, including catch-and-release, bail reform, and directing minor offenders to diversion programs rather than jail, have led to an increase in theft and violence in the liberal city.
Asked if he believes any of his methods have been flawed, Boudin replied “We make mistakes every day” but then seemed to shirk responsibility for rising crime.
“We’re managing tens of thousands of arrests every year,” he said. “We have a very tight timeline, set by state law, to make charging decisions. We always have imperfect information. Some significant percentage of people who are arrested in any jurisdiction in this country are going to be released and go on to commit very serious crimes. That’s a feature of America’s approach to criminal justice.”
He added: “It has nothing to do with our policies, and yet every time that happens in San Francisco, the recall folks and their allies will say this is a result of criminal justice reform. It’s dishonest.”