Meet the San Francisco District Attorney Candidates

Nancy Tung

Nancy Tung’s dad, a master’s-level engineer, briefly considered studying law. “He never wavered in expressing to us as kids that you have an obligation to society to contribute to political dialogue in a meaningful way,” she says.

Her dad never formally studied law, but his love of law and democracy inspired Nancy’s legal career. After engineering, he worked in software sales, then as a real estate broker. Tung’s father asked a real estate client to sell him a metal scales of justice set that his client owned, after Tung had enrolled in Georgetown Law. His client said that if Tung’s father sold his house, he would give Tung’s father the scales for free.

Done and done. Tung, who says those scales followed her from law school to various government law offices, began her legal career briefly working in a general business litigation firm. Having worked in government during her college years at UC Berkeley, and in local state legislature and on Capitol Hill in law school, Tung found government work more fulfilling, she says.

As for criminal law specifically, “I always felt this was a place where you can touch people’s lives in a very direct and meaningful way,” she says. “It fit my personality, the things that motivated me. It brought out a protective instinct in me also, particularly when I was trying domestic abuse cases.”

In fact, Tung says her prosecutorial work in domestic violence cases has taught her some of her toughest lessons.

“Sometimes, when you win at trial, you don’t always get the sentence you want. You have to take your victories where you can get them.”

Tung recounts a case where an off-duty police officer pushed his girlfriend and fled. She told an emergency room nurse what had happened, later recanted, then gave testimony at the preliminary hearing that covered for the perpetrator. Tung issued her a subpoena to appear at trial.

“She was reluctant at first,” Tung recalls, “but we developed a rapport. She was a difficult case. She had to explain to the jury why she lied in the first place. I worked hard on that case.”

The judge sentenced the offender to a month in a community work program: three days for each of the nine counts-”no probation, no Restraining Order, no domestic violence counseling, no nothing,” Tung says. “I was livid. But you take what you can get, and he’s not a police officer anymore.”

Tung’s campaign website says she wants to uphold “progressive San Francisco values.” To the question of whether Tung identifies as a progressive prosecutor, she replies, “If you take somebody who is a San Francisco prosecutor and put them anywhere else in the state, people might look at you like you’re a public defender. So do I fit the progressive wing of City Hall, their view of what a progressive prosecutor is? Probably not.

“You come at it from two different sides,” she adds. “There is the side of, ‘Hey, do we over-incarcerate brown and Black people? Are we treating people fairly in a way that is bias-neutral, race-neutral, from the beginning-the way police interact with them, the way we charge the cases, the way we prosecute the cases, the way we do offers on the cases, and do we do that in a way that’s just not fair?’ I think we can always improve in that regard.

“On the flip side, there has been a movement towards decriminalizing a lot of different things, and some of it is good, and some of it happened so quickly that we didn’t necessarily have structures in place to continue to motivate people in a certain direction.”

Tung specifically refers to the reduction of drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which she says has led to open-air drug dealing that she finds problematic.

“Would you tolerate having open-air drug dealing on the corner in Richmond, in Sunset, in Pacific Heights, in Russian Hill, in many other parts of the city? In the Tenderloin, it’s just a given.”

Children’s exposure to criminal activity in their neighborhoods concerns Tung, for whom a program called Safe Passage is a meaningful but inherently insufficient solution. Program director Kate Robinson leads several volunteers, who stand on the south side of every corner between Tenderloin Community School and the Boys and Girls Club to “clear the corners of any chaos in the Tenderloin,” Tung says.

“The other twenty-two hours of the day that Safe Passage is not in operation,” Tung says, “those kids have to live in that environment where they can’t go out and play, they can’t walk out in the street at night. The elderly and the disabled that live in the Tenderloin are held hostage, too.

Tung criticizes other candidates’ ideas of creating special units in the DA’s Office. “We have candidates that want to create civil rights units, environmental units,” she says. “By the way, there is already a full-time environmental DA and a full-time environmental investigator in San Francisco.

“I think Chesa Boudin wants to create a six-person immigration unit,” Tung says of her fellow DA candidate. “He says he can do that without getting an allocation from the Board of Supervisors. I’d like to know how he plans on addressing the rest of the staffing issues at the DA’s Office.

“Yes, let’s keep San Francisco a sanctuary city,” she adds. “Yes, let’s make sure that people, when they come to court, are not afraid of ICE jumping on them. Yes, let’s make sure that people can report crimes against them or crimes they witness, without fear that the police department is going to turn them over to ICE. But to create a six-person unit is ignoring the basic role of the prosecutor, and it’s not what San Francisco needs.”

On sexual assault crimes, Tung proposes “empowering victim advocates to go out in to the field, instead of making them come to the courthouse and testify against their abuser. Why can’t we do that someplace else? Why can’t we deliver services where the victim is, particularly if there are issues with childcare, security, and transportation?”

She points out that defendants always have access to an interpreter in court as part of their due process. “I have no problem with that,” she adds. “But if a victim wants to go and watch the arraignment, they either have to bring somebody to interpret for them, or hopefully their victim services advocate is language competent and can provide some interpretation, but they’re not trained as interpreters.”

Tung believes her independence and experience distinguish her from the other three DA candidates.

“I’ve been a prosecutor for more than eighteen years,” says Tung, who was a San Francisco Deputy DA for over a decade, served as a California Deputy Attorney General, and is presently an Alameda County Deputy DA.

“My practice has spanned appellate, trial level, civil, criminal. I’ve done white-collar fraud, I’ve done violent crime. I’ve worked with other agencies, I’ve led investigations, I’ve led multi-jurisdictional investigations, and I’ve done complex civil litigation as a consumer protection prosecutor.

“San Francisco’s problems require a coordinated response, not just with the DA’s office but with many levels of law enforcement, many other counties.” Tung says her breadth of experience would allow her to effectuate that response.

As for her independence, she adds, “Some of the other candidates are backed by major politicians, and, you know, good for them. However, the District Attorney’s Office is also about making decisions that are right and just and fair, and not just about what’s politically expedient, not to mention that we also investigate and prosecute public corruption, and make sure people who are in charge of our government are held accountable to the people.”

Tung, who lives in San Francisco with her husband and almost-two-year-old son, is a member of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots group that advocates for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence. Tung says she joined the group when her son was five months old because “the stories were very powerful” and because gun violence is largely preventable, “either through safe storage or through removing illegal firearms off the street.”

Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, she says. “[Moms Demand Action is] just making sure that in our modern society, we recognize that even one death is too many.”

On gun-related homicides, Tung says, “California has some of the strictest gun laws in America, but we are far from immune from the horror of gun violence. That’s why it’s so important to keep pushing forward with sensible gun reform, red-flag laws, and systematic removal of firearms from prohibited persons.”

Through Big Brothers Big Sisters, Tung has mentored a young woman named Vannesa since 2006, when Vannesa was eleven years old. Vannesa aged out of the formal program when she turned eighteen, but their relationship continues.

“From the time Vannesa was little,” Tung says, “I could see she had leadership qualities. I tell her, ‘Look, you can do what you want to. You can make the life you want. You just have to ask for help from people who can help you, including me, and to make sure you take advantage of opportunities when they come.’”

Of her own life and career, Tung says one of her most pivotal lessons has been that for every case, “you treat that case like it’s the most important case in the world.”

Chesa Boudin

“Having parents in prison has definitely informed my career path,” says Chesa Boudin, a San Francisco Deputy Public Defender, DA candidate, and son of Weather Underground members arrested when he was fourteen months old, for their role as getaway car drivers in a 1981 robbery that resulted in the felony murders of two police officers and a security guard.

“Familial incarceration is actually a very normal experience in this country,” Boudin says. “The majority of Americans have an immediate family member who is either currently or formerly incarcerated.

“But it wasn’t normal at Yale College, or at Yale Law School,” says the graduate of both. “It wasn’t normal in my class of Rhodes Scholars. So I’ve always been acutely aware of both how unique it is in certain circles, but also how unfortunately common it is for other folks.

“My earliest memories are going to visit my parents, even when they were still in county jail, getting searched by guards, going through metal detectors and steel gates. We had to litigate just to have contact visits back then.

“It’s why, starting in grade school, I was speaking out about these issues, trying to make sure that other kids with parents in prison have the same opportunities that I had. Many of my friends from the prison visiting room themselves ended up incarcerated. One of them actually landed on the same cell block as my dad,” Boudin says.

His dad is still in prison in New York, serving out his seventy-five-year-to-life sentence; his mom was released in 2003 after serving over twenty-two years on a twenty-year-to-life sentence.

His dad’s prison is one of few in the country to allow overnight “family reunion visits,” Boudin says. “I’ve done at least four days a year for thirty-eight years sleeping inside maximum security prisons, just with my dad. I did hundreds of days in my mom’s visiting room as well.”

Boudin says he was thinking about being a lawyer when he was six or seven years old. “My uncle, my adoptive mother, my grandfather, and many other people I looked up to from an early age were lawyers,” he says, adding that he used to go to his grandfather’s law firm with him before his death when Boudin was nine years old.

“He let me help him with his cases, and he’d tell me I had cracked the case. So I was excited about it from an early age,” he says.

Boudin, who notes that the California state prison system accounts for 8.5 percent of the entire state budget, is a proponent of restorative justice. “I want to give every victim of every crime in San Francisco the opportunity to participate in a restorative justice process,” he says.

“I am committed to public safety through less incarceration, not more. I saw with my parents that restorative justice actually works, not only for the victims, but also for the people who cause harm,” he says. “It’s much more challenging for people who commit crime to proactively take responsibility for what they’ve done than to passively spend any number of years in prison.”

Boudin’s mom came to know one of her crime victims while she was in prison. “A woman who was carjacked in the aftermath of the robbery built a relationship with my mom when the woman was volunteering at the prison. Their relationship did far more for my mom, in terms of allowing her to come to terms with the damage she caused, than any number of years in prison ever would have done.”

Boudin says the traditional approach to public safety is that we’re safer when more people are in prison longer, with a simplistic sense of good and bad people. “I don’t see it that way,” he says. “I think all people make mistakes, and all of us are more than our worst mistakes.

“We need jails and prisons, and we need serious consequences for people who commit serious crimes,” he adds. “But those consequences need to be tied to dealing with the harm that was caused, and to the victim’s rights and needs.”

Boudin gave the example of a January 2018 auto burglary, where someone broke one window and stole a backpack from the car, for which the Court sentenced him to nine years in state prison.

“So that’s $750,000 in tax money that we are allocating to punish someone for breaking one car widow,” he says. “For all that money, nobody helped the victim fix the broken window. When my car has been broken into, what I wanted most was for my window to be fixed quickly and cheaply.

“As a Public Defender, in countless cases, I’ve reached out to the victim with my investigator, and the victim told me I was the first person from the Hall of Justice to call them.

“I’m the only candidate in this race who currently works in the Hall of Justice,” Boudin adds. “In fact, I have more experience in the Hall of Justice courtrooms over the last eight years than all the other candidates combined.

“It’s a common path to be a prosecutor for years, then leave public service and go make money doing white collar defense. It’s less common for people to do what I’m doing, which is to learn how the system works and doesn’t work, to understand the motivations of people who commit crimes, and to use that skill and insight to try to make the system function more effectively.

“For example, 75% of the people who commit crimes in San Francisco are mentally ill or drug-addicted. The Visit a Prison Campaign challenges elected officials and candidates across the country to visit a jail or prison in the next twelve months. I have been doing this my whole life, both personally and professionally,” he says.

Police accountability is also high on Boudin’s priority list. “It’s really simple,” he says. “Equal enforcement of the law. People want to talk about mechanisms and procedures and different units, but at the end of the day, the District Attorney has to be independent of the police department, to have the political courage to file charges against police officers when they break the law. It’s not that complicated.”

Of current District Attorney George Gascón’s Independent Investigation Bureau (“IIB”), Boudin says, “It’s appropriate to have an independent unit within the DA’s Office. But despite establishing that independent unit in 2016, Gascón hasn’t filed any charges in officer-involved shooting cases.”

In 2015, Boudin started doing impact litigation around bail reform. “Freedom should be free,” he says. “With cash bail, a rich person charged with attempted murder can buy their freedom and go on to commit the murder. A person charged with shoplifting may be too poor to buy their freedom and may lose their job and housing as a result.”

As San Francisco DA, he would eliminate cash bail. Boudin has filed federal class action lawsuits and habeas corpus petitions in state court.

In Humphrey, one of his state cases now pending in the California Supreme Court, a unanimous appellate court panel ruled that San Francisco judges were using money bail in a discriminatory way, violating equal protection and due process.

As a Deputy Public Defender, Boudin says his office bears some responsibility for a criminal justice system that he describes as dysfunctional. Citing that 2/3 of criminal trials are misdemeanors, he says, “It’s the challenge of the next District Attorney to create incentives for people charged with low-level, quality of life crimes not to go to trial.”

Boudin gave the example of victimless DUIs-”no accident, not even side-swiping a parked car”-which he says comprise half the misdemeanor trials in San Francisco.

“The standard offer to resolve a first offense victimless DUI in San Francisco is to plead guilty,” Boudin says. “So public defenders advise their clients to go to trial to avoid a criminal record. Public defenders win a lot of their DUI cases, so it’s not such a long shot.

“The DA’s Office can fix that broken system a couple of ways: give people better offers or a path to avoid a conviction if they jump through the right hoops, or start winning all your trials.”

Immigration concerns Boudin. “All over the country, ICE agents wait outside the courtroom for non-citizens to come out, and they arrest them. That’s dissuading witnesses, which obstructs justice, and we’re going to prosecute it. ICE agents also go to Spanish-speaking daycare centers and wait for parents to pick up their kids, then they arrest the parents. That’s child endangerment. We’re going to prosecute it.

“We in San Francisco are not safe or insulated from the racism and nativism of the Trump Administration,” he adds. “We’ve been lucky thus far. It won’t last forever.”

Among others, Boudin’s endorsements include the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats of America, Democratic Party Chair David Campos, and San Francisco supervisors Sandra Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Gordon Mar, and Hillary Ronen. “It’s telling that Larry Krasner and Rachael Rollins, high-profile faces of the progressive prosecutor movement, have both endorsed me,” Boudin says.

Boudin lives in San Francisco with his partner, a post-doctoral researcher at UCSF focusing on multiple sclerosis, specifically the intersection of physical therapy and neurology and the use of wearable devices to track the progression of the condition and its response to treatment. Boudin says his partner, an immigrant, came to this country to earn her doctorate at UCSF.

Suzy Loftus

When Suzy Loftus was three years old, an unidentified person attacked and stabbed her mom in a secured parking lot outside her mom’s workplace. A witness to the attack from above yelled at the assailant, who left. The authorities never found the perpetrator.

“My mom, born in England of Irish parents, came to this country at nineteen years old; living in English housing projects, her dreams were bigger than her options.

“When my mom was attacked, she was not connected [in this country] and didn’t understand how things worked,” Loftus says. “As a first-generation American, I always felt that people who understood the rules had a huge advantage. The law is obviously the rule book that we all follow.”

Loftus’ paternal grandfather had to drop out of high school before graduating; he grew up in Harlem and could not afford the subway fare. He worked and became President of his labor union, the Insurance Workers International Union.

“Because he didn’t have the opportunity to finish his education,” Loftus says, “his labor leader work was important to him. And there was a suggestion from him that our family should get as much education as we could, and use it to help people.”

Loftus, who majored in political science at Santa Clara University, took that suggestion all the way to the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she says she knew she wanted to seek justice.

“A lot of people seeking justice line up on the Public Defender’s side,” she says. “As the child of a violent crime victim, my question was, ‘Who stands up for that person?’”

A secondary inspiration for Loftus’s prosecutorial work was “meeting this up and coming female attorney of color, who talked about the prosecutor being the only person in court charged with doing justice. Of course, that was Kamala Harris, who was Deputy City Attorney at the time.” Harris’s message that justice seekers must take the mantle of authority and power and use it for good resonated with Loftus.

“A prosecutor’s charge is to do justice,” says Loftus, who describes herself as a progressive prosecutor.

On October 4, 2019, Mayor London Breed announced that she would appoint Loftus as interim District Attorney pending the November election, in the wake of George Gascón’s October 3 rdresignation to establish Los Angeles residency so he could run for District Attorney there.

Before Breed swore her in as interim District Attorney on October 20, 2019, Loftus served as Legal Counsel for San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy. Prior to that, Loftus built the Center for Youth Wellness in Bayview Hunters Point, and served as President of the San Francisco Police Commission, General Counsel and Assistant Director of the Division of Law Enforcement at the California Department of Justice, and Assistant San Francisco District Attorney.

“We have to take stock of the sentences we imposed in 1996. New laws allow us to consider that some of our choices did not make us safer, and justice didn’t require those lengthy sentences. What we really want is to build safe communities, and a progressive prosecutor is a partner with the community in doing that.”

Specifically, Loftus wants to establish a restorative justice system through community partnerships. “The community-based piece is that when people came to me as DA, I would do everything I could to make sure they didn’t come back, and the community has to be a meaningful partner.

“We also have to serve victims of crime in such a better, fundamentally different way,” she says. “I hear from across the city, almost universally, that the reason crime victims are not happy with the ultimate outcome of their cases is that they didn’t feel seen, heard, or helped.

“A lot of the criminal justice effort over the last few years has been, rightly, to understand the plight of the criminally accused and challenges around poverty and trauma,” she adds. “We have similar issues with the population of people suffering as victims and survivors. We can focus on them in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

Loftus plans to respond to crime victims where they live. “The typical government approach is to make everyone come to us,” she says. “There are a lot of reasons people don’t want to come to 850 Bryant. We are getting people out into the community, through partnerships, to help victims.”

About her proposed Civil Rights Unit, Loftus says, “I’m so excited.” She says that over the past twenty years, the annual reports on San Francisco’s racial disparities, including within the city’s criminal justice system, are among the widest in the country.

“Five percent of our city’s population is African American, but they are fifty-three percent of who’s in our jail. The disparities exist at who gets arrested; then they get larger at who gets booked into custody; then they grow at who actually gets a case filed against them; then they grow at who stays in custody after the case is filed; then it grows at what the sentence is. It is out of whack.”

Loftus explains that racial inequities are inherent in sentencing enhancements imposed against people who have served prison time.

“If you pick up a robbery, which is a strike felony, and you’ve been to prison before for drugs, you can get charged with an enhancement,” she says. “Since African Americans are more likely to go to prison for the same crimes white people commit without serving prison time, these enhancements for prior prison terms are loaded with racial disparities.”

She plans to staff the DA’s Office with civil rights attorneys and partner with academic experts, such as Jennifer Eberhardt at Stanford, and academics at UC Berkeley.

Loftus notes that eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed believe they’ve suffered corporate fraud, and that workers in the ten most populous U.S. states (California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas) lose $8 billion to wage theft per year. “Relying on the federal government to enforce the laws that govern these crimes is insufficient,” she says.

“I propose that our Civil Rights Unit will work to eliminate racial disparities, and it will do proactive, affirmative litigation to protect our public rights,” she says.

Loftus also wants to put a neighborhood prosecutor system in place. “I was a neighborhood prosecutor,” she says. “I sort of started the model in the Western Addition, which is how I met Mayor Breed. A lot of people are trying to solve problems around homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse, and there’s a unique opportunity with the neighborhood prosecutor model to harness and leverage those city resources together, specific to a community.”

The neighborhood prosecutor model brings the DA into all of San Francisco’s ten police districts, to address the public safety issues impacting each community with its residents. Community members identify the district’s repeat offenders and offer neighborhood-informed solutions.

Loftus hopes to expand neighborhood courts, which provide pre-trial solutions to many of San Francisco’s quality of life challenges, Loftus explains. In this process, the person charged with a crime does not have legal representation, and works directly with the victim and the community.

“Maybe it’s an apology,” Loftus says. “It could be appearing before a panel of community members, acknowledging what you did, and paying restitution to the victim or doing community service.”

Loftus wants to eliminate cash bail. She tells the story of a person who shot into the windows of Loftus’s own corner store in the Outer Sunset, shortly after she’d moved to the neighborhood from the Western Addition. Loftus handled the arraignment.

The defendant had been drinking at a local bar, Loftus says. Someone pushed him, so he drove his Volvo home and removed his Glock semi-automatic pistol from a locker. He drove around looking for the person who had pushed him, and when he thought he’d seen him in Loftus’s corner store, he shot into it.

“Now, by the grace of God, he didn’t kill anyone,” Loftus says. “But that’s one of the most dangerous things you can do, and even though we set bail relatively high, he put up his house and just walked out of jail.

“We’ve got other folks who could be nineteen years old and maybe their bail is really low, but they don’t have the resources and they stay in. It causes incredible disparity, and it doesn’t make us safer. We have to find ways to release people into a community based on the risk they pose, not the amount of money in their bank accounts.”

Loftus, whose endorsements include Governor Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and Mayor London Breed, identifies immigration as an important issue for the next DA.

“For local law enforcement to do its job, which is to keep everyone safe, we do not care about your status. We will not ask. We will not cooperate with the federal government to enforce federal immigration law.

“If you think I’m worried about your status, you’re less likely to call. You’re less likely to be a witness. You’re more likely to be manipulated by somebody who might be abusing you and making you afraid that if you call the police, you’re going to get deported.”

Loftus is a native San Franciscan. She and her husband, Tom Loftus, are raising three daughters in San Francisco, ages fourteen, twelve, and ten. Her husband manages SFGTV, the government TV station.

Leif Dautch

Leif Dautch grew up around the juvenile justice system from the age of eight years old: his mom was a nurse in a juvenile hall in Ventura County, and she would tell Leif’s siblings and him about the kids she worked with.

Dautch’s family took in a dozen foster kids over a decade-”not all at once; we’re not crazy,” he says-and adopted two children from the foster care system. “I saw people like my mom really making a difference within the system, and saw how one good person within the justice system can change people’s lives.”

Dautch says he’s always been drawn to criminal justice work. “For me,” he says, “making sure victims of crime get the justice they deserve is a really important part of wanting to be a prosecutor.”

While interning at the San Francisco DA’s Office under Kamala Harris in 2005, he says, “I fell in love with the work, with San Francisco, and with that office. So it’s fun for me, fourteen years later, to come full circle and run to lead that office where I started out as an intern.”

Dautch, who worked on Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and regularly volunteers at San Francisco’s liberal Glide Memorial Church and Raphael House homeless shelter, identifies as a progressive prosecutor.

“‘Progressive prosecutor’ doesn’t mean not prosecuting cases,” he says. “It means, yes, reducing some of the over-charging and over-incarceration that goes on, but also making sure there is a level playing field and that there’s truly equal justice before the law, regardless of whether you’re a big corporation or a homeless person.

“San Francisco is maybe one of the few places I would feel comfortable being a prosecutor,” he adds. “There is a more hard-charging, ‘win at all costs’ mentality in other California jurisdictions, and certainly around the country, and I’m not sure I would want to be a part of an office like that.”

Dautch, a Yale undergrad and Harvard Law School graduate, joined the California Attorney General’s Office in 2012, after externing for Harris and clerking for a Ninth Circuit judge in San Francisco.

He is currently handling the appeal of the Kate Steinle case, in which the San Francisco DA’s Office charged an undocumented immigrant with first-degree and second-degree murder for shooting and killing Steinle, then a jury acquitted him of all the homicide charges but convicted him as a felon in possession of a firearm.

“Well, the DA’s Office counts that as a win,” Dautch says. “Instead of just that single-minded focus on conviction rates, I want to assess prosecutors based on the recidivism rates of the defendants they prosecute.”

Dautch points to San Diego’s Life Plan Project. Under this model, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the judge, and probation work together as someone is going to jail or prison, to develop a life plan for them.

“So you say, ‘What is this person’s root problem? Is it drugs? Is it mental health? Is it a gang issue? What are the programs they need to take advantage of in prison, and how can we set them up with services coming out?’,” he says. “The fact that San Diego is doing that and San Francisco isn’t is crazy to me.”

The recent police raid of the home and office of San Francisco journalist Bryan Carmody concerns Dautch. “I was the first District Attorney candidate to put out a public statement denouncing the raid,” he says.

“Three things troubled me: First, in an era where you’ve got the President calling the press ‘the enemy of the people,’ we have to be careful about anything we do that can be seen as an infringement on a free, independent press.

“Second, I’ve argued a lot of search warrant cases, and the police department has now acknowledged that at least one of the searches violated the journalistic shield law. The fact that police didn’t reach out to the District Attorney’s Office for any third party legal review, when this was supposed to be a criminal search warrant, is problematic.

“The third piece is that the method of executing the search warrant, taking a sledgehammer to Carmody’s front door and handcuffing him for six hours for a non-violent leak investigation, is wholly disproportionate to the nature of the investigation.”

If elected, Dautch wants to launch an environmental justice unit. “Really, to resurrect an environmental justice unit that used to exist in the DA’s Office,” he says.

“The U.S. Navy has targeted the Hunter’s Point Shipyard, a community comprised largely of African Americans, for industrial development and pollution. We already know there’s a problem there; ninety-eight percent of the soil samples were falsified. Thirteen-thousand units are slated for construction out there, not to mention the thousands of people living within a mile of the shipyard. And we don’t have a single prosecutor or investigator doing anything about it.”

Dautch also wants to launch an auto burglary task force. “The California Department of Motor Vehicles has a pot of money that provides matching dollars to cities and counties that come up with innovative ways to tackle property crime,” he says.

“If we were to ask the Board of Supervisors for half a million dollars, we can get that from the State to build out a team of four prosecutors and an investigator, to build big cases against the organized rings breaking into ten, fifteen, twenty cars at a time in San Francisco.”

He says residents often blame homeless people for San Francisco’s rampant car break-ins, but that these rings are primarily responsible. “Violent crimes are at historic lows in San Francisco, in California, and throughout the country, and that’s fantastic,” Dautch says.

“But there is an explosion in quality of life offenses. And one thing that frustrates me is the single-minded focus that some have on resisting and marching and tweeting in the Trump era. That stuff is important, but you can’t forget about doing the everyday work of building a great city. The 8,000 homeless people on our streets and 31,000 car break-ins every year and sidewalks covered in needles and pieces of broken glass are not doing the progressive movement any favors.”

San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall is on course to shut down by the end of 2021, which Dautch says will free up $10–15 million from the DA Office and Juvenile Hall Probation budgets. Dautch wants to use those funds, and the facility’s 150 beds, to transform Juvenile Hall into a Mental Health Justice Center.

“As Past President of the Juvenile Probation Commission, I know the department budget and the opportunity it presents. It is a lot cheaper to address the underlying mental health issues than to wait until those issues become 911 calls or fire calls.”

Dautch adds that seventy-five percent of San Francisco firefighters’ calls are homeless welfare checks, not fires. He tells the story of one person who went to San Francisco General’s emergency room 157 times in a recent year, costing the city $1 million.

“It is far more cost-effective to address mental health and get people the help they need,” Dautch says. “It is time to stop blaming Ronald Reagan for shutting down state hospitals forty years ago; it’s time to step up and fix the problem.

“We can establish a small, secure setting for genuine public safety threats,” he adds. “Kids who murder and commit sexual assault will need to be in a secure setting, whether that’s in San Francisco or a neighboring county.”

Dautch says he is the only candidate focused on homelessness and mental health. “Many if not all the other candidates have said homelessness is not a DA issue. None has a policy proposal on homelessness. We have specific proposals on the Mental Health Justice Center, homelessness on the streets, and preventing fraudulent evictions so people don’t get pushed onto the streets in the first place. At our fifty-five house parties [as of July 2019], and at the street fairs and farmers markets, we’ve heard that everyone wants that.”

Dautch also says he is the only candidate who manages a team of prosecutors. “The DA’s role is a management position,” he says. “There are 130 prosecutors and another 130 support staff. There is a $70 million day-to-day budget.

“At the Attorney General’s Office, I decide how cases are assigned and litigated, and I review filings before they go in. San Francisco’s Juvenile Probation Commission, where I served as President, is similar in size to the DA’s Office. It is essential for the next DA to be a prosecutor who has led a team of prosecutors.”

Dautch says that as DA, he would also handle cases himself, “like Jeff Adachi did, and like Matt Gonzalez and the leadership of the Public Defender’s Office does. I would lead by example and put a working DA back into that office.”

Endorsed by the San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 and the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, among other groups and individual community leaders, Dautch says, “The first responders and public safety partners that the DA must work with are critical. Being able to work with firefighters and deputy sheriffs on homelessness, mental health, and reentry work is important. Those relationships will help me to rebuild our criminal justice system.”

Dautch’s wife, Brittany Dautch, is a Bay Area native. She helps Bay Area companies, nonprofits, and governments with major events. The couple is expecting their first child later this year.

Originally published at on October 31, 2019.