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SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the ACLU of Northern California announces its strong opposition to the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, whose progressive policies aimed at providing public safety, reducing incarceration, and holding police accountable are under attack.
The ACLU of Northern California supports public safety solutions that are consistent with the values of civil liberties and civil rights that San Francisco residents share. We acknowledge people are frustrated and angry about crime, but we reject the premise that keeping the public safe means abandoning our values. That is a false choice.
We urge San Franciscans to vote no on the recall on June 7.
Less than two years after massive nationwide protests over George Floyd’s murder sparked a long overdue reckoning with racism in the American legal system, police unions and their wealthy allies are exploiting our fears and the social disruption caused by the pandemic in an effort to reinstate failed policies that devastated the Black community.
Because we’ve been down this perilous road before, we know criminalizing poverty and addiction, surveilling neighborhoods, and filling the jails won’t make San Francisco any safer. Such a short-sighted approach will only exacerbate persistent racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Instead, Chesa Boudin has supported public safety measures that prioritize civil liberties and civil rights.
The stakes are incredibly high in this recall election.
“The campaign to recall Chesa Boudin is a cynical attempt to slam the door on progress,” said Yoel Haile, director of the criminal justice program at the ACLU of Northern California. “San Franciscans support police accountability and alternatives to mass incarceration. As a candidate, Chesa Boudin promised to enact criminal justice reforms. As district attorney, he has followed through on that promise.”
Boudin has implemented public safety policies the ACLU supports that hold people accountable and reduce youth and adult incarceration. He ended cash bail, cut the county jail population, expanded rigorous diversion programs, pledged never to charge children as adults, and created an independent Innocence Commission to review potential wrongful convictions. With these actions, Boudin has sought to keep his promise and fix a broken legal system that disproportionately punishes Black and Brown people. He has also rejected the racist, ineffective mass incarceration policies of the past.
Despite fierce opposition from the powerful San Francisco police union, Boudin has upheld his campaign pledge to put violent police officers on trial when they break the law. He filed the first-ever homicide charges against an on-duty SFPD officer, prosecuted a police officer who beat an unarmed Black man with a baton, and refiled felony charges against Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputies who viciously battered an unarmed man in San Francisco. Boudin also provides compensation to victims of police brutality.
Under Boudin’s leadership, the district attorney’s office has prosecuted domestic violence and sexual assault cases vigorously, and he initiated programs to provide housing and transportation for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. In February, Boudin exposed the San Francisco Police Department’s disturbing history of using DNA from rape kits to identify survivors as suspects in unrelated criminal cases, a practice advocates said could further discourage people from reporting sexual assault. Facing widespread outrage and condemnation from the legal community, the police department swiftly ended the practice.
Reject the politics of fear
The past two years have taken a toll on all of us. The pandemic ushered in a turbulent period of social upheaval and economic instability. Although experts suggest multiple factors contributed to an uptick in some crimes, critics seized the opportunity to blame Boudin and accuse him of failing to keep the city safe.
Supporters of the recall — including the police union and a small group of deep-pocketed donors who bankrolled the signature gathering drive to place the recall on the June ballot— are distorting Boudin’s record and stoking San Francisco residents’ fears about crime to derail reform.
In fact, Chesa Boudin has adopted public safety solutions that work: granting rigorous diversion when appropriate, providing more services for victims, and holding the powerful accountable.
“Crime is a complex societal problem that requires sustained solutions,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “Don’t let opponents of criminal justice reform turn back the clock to a time when prosecutors believed jail was the suitable punishment for nearly every offense. Mass incarceration ruined countless lives and never kept us safe.”
The ACLU of Northern California urges San Franciscans to Vote No on the Recall on June 7.
DISCLAIMER: The ACLU of Northern California does not take positions for or against candidates for office, but when a recall is about the civil liberties record of an elected official, we can speak out. And we do so now, for the first time in a local recall.