May 10, 2024
61 min
Episode 17

WE ARE SAN FRANCISCO: Meet The Candidates: Brooke Jenkins

Ben Kaplan  00:00

Hey, BART Rider. Hey San Francisco. I'm Ben Kaplan and this is the podcast where we define who we are and who we want to be.

Chesa Boudin - WASF  00:09

We are diverse. We are innovative, we are inclusive. We are change makers, problem solvers, activists, leaders, citizens. We are open minded, optimistic, because hope for a better tomorrow

Ben Kaplan  00:23

and you and you and you got to get in the hole. This is the podcast. That's more than a podcast for Cisco. They are the world champion. We are San Francisco.

Ben Kaplan  00:41

Hey, San Francisco. Today is another episode in the Meet the 2024 candidates series. I'm chatting with Brooke Jenkins, who is currently serving as San Francisco's District Attorney, Brooke became the interim District Attorney back in 2022. After the recall of her predecessor, Chesa Boudin, she was appointed by Mayor London breed, then one election later that year, and she's running for reelection in November of this year. So Brooke, welcome to the show.

Brooke Jenkins  01:05

Thank you for having me.

Ben Kaplan  01:07

So first of all, you know, you come into the office in unusual circumstances, there are a lot of District Attorney recalls and in our history, what is the give people a sense, what is the first thing you do to kind of restructure the office? I know there's lawyers who are fired. There's lawyers who are hired, what changes at that point?

Brooke Jenkins  01:26

Yes, we had never had a DA recall. I don't know that many people had ever seen that happen in their lifetime anywhere. And so I came in at a time when not only the city was in crisis, but our office was in crisis. We had a management team that was almost completely comprised of career long public defenders. So I had to completely overhaul that structure, I had to make sure that we had experienced prosecutors at the helm of the office, running the day to day operations and guiding lawyers in how to responsibly prosecute cases, I also had to make sure that everybody who was on the team, regardless of whether you were paralegal, a victim advocate and investigator, no matter what your role was that you were committed to public safety and doing our job the right way, actually serving the city in the function that we are supposed to serve. And so much of my priority when I took over was, yes, I had to release people and I released 15 People in the first week. And then we had a number of people just voluntarily leave who, you know, were not on board with sort of the new administration, and then quickly tried to hire experienced prosecutors back to both manage the office and try cases.

Ben Kaplan  02:40

And what was the difference when you have like a management structure in the DA's office, that's more, you know, from people who've spent their life as a public defender versus a prosecutor, what is the difference for those of us who aren't actually volunteered

Brooke Jenkins  02:51

in the public defender's office before I came over to the DA's office. So I'm going to tell you what I believe at from that experience, which is when you are a public defender, your sole responsibility and thought process is what is best for your client. So what is best for the person charged with the crime. And overwhelmingly, the thought process of what is best is that they be released, that they that the case would be dismissed and go away, and that they be free, right and not bound by the criminal justice system. When you are a prosecutor, you have a different outlook, your Outlook should be threefold. It should be what is justice look like for the victim? What does that look like? Is it incarceration is it treatment is what is it that we believe will ultimately provide justice to that victim, we have to take into consideration what is just unfair and proportional to the defendant, right, we shouldn't be too harsh, we shouldn't be too lenient, we should make sure that we are looking at what brought them into the system and route them down the off ramp that they need in order to rehabilitate themselves. And then we have to consider public safety as a whole for society, we have to keep in mind that whatever decisions we make need to be what we believe is best overall for the general public safety atmosphere. And so it's very difficult when you've been a public defender for 15 or 20 years, and you've only thought about what is best for your client to change some

Ben Kaplan  04:15

of these patterns of how you think about things and in a different role. And, and one of the biggest debates because case of budino has been on the show and he was a proponent of a lot of criminal justice reform. A lot of people in San Francisco support that idea. But is it possible to do that, at the same time that we really are needing to clean up our streets? And there's a lot of issue like, can you do that simultaneously? or should there be an order in it? Meaning like, we've got to get our foundation on our streets solid, and then we can do other things like what is your feeling on that? Because I know you've you've said you support criminal justice reform. Also, I

Brooke Jenkins  04:49

absolutely support criminal justice reform. And again, I try to remind people that most of the people disadvantaged by the system are of my background, right? I'm a black and Latino woman and so Those are the people who have overwhelmingly been disadvantaged in the system. So I don't come from this from having had to learn about the need for reform. In a book, I'm talking to you about what my family, my friends, people around me have experienced in the system that's been unfair, I do believe we can balance both of those interests at the same time that we can accomplish achieving them both at the same time. But you have to be responsible in the way that you implement reform, it can't be at the expense of public safety. Everything that we do on the reform side has to always keep in mind that our first and primary responsibility is safety. And so anything that we implement, needs to be in a in a fashion that won't right undermine that that mission. I have, since I took over been very invested in reforming the system, both from a legislative standpoint, both from a policy standpoint, but I also believe that prevention and intervention work should be the the full, should be a part of any reform strategy, right, we have to be investing on the front end so that people don't commit crime on the back ends of their lives in the DA's office has never really had a footprint in that type of work. And so that's sort of the space where I have invested most of our resources into reforming things.

Ben Kaplan  06:19

So what is the life of a district attorney like in a major city? I mean, you had a fast rise in the DA's office, what is your week look like? What are your activities? Who are you meeting with?

Brooke Jenkins  06:28

You know, I always wondered about what the DEA is I worked for did all day. Now, I know that it is a great deal of community engagement, you have to make yourself accessible to the public, they want to know what you are doing. To keep them safe, they want to be reassured that you are at the forefront of addressing issues that are of most concern to them. Right now, of course, I came in at a time when public safety was the top concern of almost every San Franciscan business owner, resident, you name it, even visitors of San Francisco. And so I've had to spend a lot of my days really engaging in a dialogue with various stakeholders groups, to make sure that

Ben Kaplan  07:14

are you a politician now? Is that what you're saying? Have you been Have you become you consider yourself a politician?

Brooke Jenkins  07:18

You know, yes, I have to consider myself that way. I do miss the courtroom, I no longer feels sort of like a lawyer because I don't get to go to court anymore. But it's, I sometimes feel like a professor, because I have to go out and explain to people how the criminal justice system works. Why, you know, certain cases get handled a certain way. Make sure that people understand that I see. And I hear them and explain to them what we are doing to address their concern, be it auto burglary, or be it they have a concern about shootings in their neighborhoods, right from the lowest level crime up to the most areas. And for that reason, I still, I still feel like an advocate for victims in the same way that I was when I was a prosecutor. But day to day, I still do work out. That's how I start every morning, after my kids get off to school, I head to the gym. Because you do have to have some self care when you're when you give so much to others. And

Ben Kaplan  08:17

you have an interesting background in the D A. 's office when you were an assistant district attorney, I mean, you spent time in hate crimes unit you spent time in sexual assault unit ended up in very high profile the homicide unit, what does that time what did that teach you now, and each of those units or experiences that influences you as district attorney,

Brooke Jenkins  08:37

you really do fully understand what victims need from our office victims who are the most vulnerable, the most traumatized, and what we have an obligation to deliver to them, we are their sole voice in that system, right of justice, if we don't help them tell their story, then they have no one who will help them do that. If we don't fight for justice, that is a trauma that they have to carry the rest of their lives and feel like nobody helped them. And so I think it's that is difficult to do as a DA when you've never done this job. And San Francisco has had more than one da who had never prosecuted a case. And I don't think fully understood what it means to have that responsibility of delivering that justice to a victim. The other thing is it informs me of how to consider evidence right when we are trying to look at certain cases and decide is this the case we dismiss Is this a case we charge? Of course I don't look at every case, but there have been very serious cases that do get discussed with me. And I get to view them from the lens of somebody who has tried, right, the most complex cases that our office handles and I don't have to just defer to what other lawyers are telling me is the case I can call upon my experience and I think that is the very unique how many

Ben Kaplan  09:55

cases is the D A 's office is overseeing at any one time and how many reach Your desk

Brooke Jenkins  10:00

so we handle 1000s of cases. Even just last year alone for drug dealing, we, we've received out and filed over 1000 cases in a year just for drug dealing. So imagine when you add in every other type of crime there is. So only a small, tiny fraction come up to my office, it's generally the more serious cases, homicides, rapes. Right now, some of you know a handful of maybe cases involving attacks on our Asian seniors, more very, very serious cases like that will advance to me either for settlement discussions whether or not I will approve a plea offer that's being made, whether a lawyer sees that, you know, evidence has fallen apart, and we need to dismiss. And so we will discuss whether or not I agree with the position that they're taking, and I'll weigh in,

Ben Kaplan  10:51

when you originally ran for the office, after you were appointed your key tenants was better sort of relationships with local state national law enforcement, that was a priority for you. What has changed in the past couple of years on that front, Have things changed in terms of relationship with DA's office to law enforcement,

Brooke Jenkins  11:08

things have changed tremendously on that front? Let's start with SFPD. I mean, the, the relationship between SFPD and my office when I took over, was antagonistic. I mean, it wasn't even non existent it was that they were at odds with each other. And for understandable reasons, given the way the previous da carried himself. But even in administrations prior to that, there was a breakdown that we there was really no relationship between gas gone, and SFPD, Kamala Harris had a very well known situation involving a police officer that was murdered, that deteriorated her relationship with SFPD. So this was a long road of us getting to a point where we could work together. And so

Ben Kaplan  11:50

they truly didn't feel like previously, like you're on the same team. It's like we're on different teams, and looking out for our interests would that's how you would describe it previously, as

Brooke Jenkins  11:58

a line attorney, you felt fine. But what you knew was that the backdrop was that the two agencies functioned very separately, there wasn't a lot of coordination at the top, at the point it was Chesa that took over there was zero coordination. And so yes, you feel that and you understand what that what impact that has on the way we can best do our work. And so for me, it was about establishing that we were going to have a partnership hitting the reset button. Let's start from scratch. And I had a headstart because I had worked with a lot of cops over the years. So they knew the quality of my work and what my commitment was, but it was opening back up that that Partnership Dialogue, because at the end of the day, the police can make an arrest. But if they don't bring us the evidence that we need in current time to successfully prosecute than the arrest is meaningless. And over time, the expectation of jurors has changed. And we can expect them to know that we have to be able to communicate that to them. That what was good enough back in 1990, when you started your career, you know, experienced police officer doesn't suffice for a jury that now is in the tech world, we have a lot of tech workers who want surveillance video and they want all of these technological things in front of them to make a you know, an informed decision. And so Hey, now we need to tell you what was good enough back then we need you to collect more, gather more, and you have to be able to discuss that. The other thing that was non existent was any partnership on the federal level on the state level that wasn't going on. And so now we are not only at the table with state and federal law enforcement agencies, but we have a coordinated strategy on how to address for right now one of the most pressing issues in our city, which is drunk dealing. And I've asked police officers and others who have been in the in, you know, in law enforcement for some of them 30 years. Have you ever seen a partnership on this scale before between the US Attorney's Office, the DEA, right police my office? No, that's their answer. No, but that's where we are now.

Ben Kaplan  14:02

And you mentioned surveillance, and we had a ballot measure on the march ballot, Proposition II, which was in part had more police powers that dealt with that. One of the interesting things that I didn't realize it and I'm not a legal expert, but the San Francisco Bar Association came out against that proposition which of course passed and they raise this issue. It's a legal issue. I love for you to comment on of like, could these surveillance methods hold up in court that there was an issue in whether let's say you have the greeter surveillance or drone footage or other things that there was issues on could a conviction actually be made that was raised? I don't know if that's accurate or inaccurate? What is your response to that saying, hey, even if we have these, it could hinder the ability to prosecute criminals. I

Brooke Jenkins  14:44

would fundamentally disagree and it's always on a case by case basis. Anyway. Every time we walk into court with a piece of evidence, we have to lay a foundation for why that evidence is reliable, right to a judge and to it you know, before we're allowed to present it to a jury We have to authenticate it to make sure that it is in fact, the footage, you know, that captured our incident. And, you know, not every piece of surveillance video is all that helpful depends on the quality, it depends on all sorts of things, right? Was it nighttime was it daytime. And so at the end of the day, we will always have to make that case by case presentation to ask that it'd be admissible. But more is always better. We always want to be making sure that we make every effort to arrest the right person. So much of what surveillance evidence allows is for us to prove identity of the suspect, right, so that nobody is dealing with hopefully false convictions, or were juries holding responsible the wrong person, they should be able to look at something hopefully and see, yes, the person who committed this is in fact, the person sitting in front of us. And so for me, wanted to assist in catching those who are committing these crimes. But then on the back end, it helps us reassure ourselves and our jurors, that we in fact, are prosecuting the correct person and for the specific crime that they committed and not something more or something less

Ben Kaplan  16:09

well, and do you think the use of technology could be expanded? Is there more that we could do? I mean, there's an interesting case in India, they are very resource strapped, they don't have if you think we don't have enough police officers here, they really don't have enough police officers for that size of population. One of the things they've done with surveillance is say, Okay, if someone is a repeat offender, we're going to use more like AI technology or other things to identify other cases that that person might be related to, because we don't have enough officers to go out and look through books and try to match up people's faces. So they say, in India, it's not an invasion of privacy, because these are really repeat people. And we're just trying to automate looking through a book that takes a lot of time. What is your thoughts on just doing even more with technology and surveillance, particularly if we're in an understaffed police situation,

Brooke Jenkins  16:53

it can absolutely help us when it comes to situations where we don't have enough human bodies to do these things. But also, we should always want to have an objective of freeing up human beings to do more important things like be on the street than sitting behind a desk combing through a computer or through a book. I mean, that should always be our goal. Because at the end of the day, the more police we have out on the street, the more they can address concerns, the more they can serve as a deterrent, the more community policing they can engage in, they can create relationships with people in the communities for which they serve, which are important. And so we should always, just like we do in any other industry, try to automate as much as we can, right, as long as it's not taking away jobs. Right. So there's a debate. Well, if you talk about self checkouts, we know I don't want to go there. But where we still need human beings to serve that function, but where we can, we can limit how much time that they spend doing administrative tasks. And so I would fundamentally agree we have to be a city that moves in that direction. We are in Silicon Valley, there's no reason why we shouldn't be moving in that direction. And I believe there's ways we can do it without us all handing over our privacy completely.

Ben Kaplan  18:08

Do you think when you came into office that the police department, it was reported that they were just willing to send over more over cases when Chesa was on the show, he said didn't send me enough cases, they didn't send me enough things. I was limited. Police

Chesa Boudin - WASF  18:22

stopped making arrests. When I was district attorney and started working harder under the new administration.

Ben Kaplan  18:28

Do you think the police kind of stepped up their activity once you came in office? Is that true?

Brooke Jenkins  18:33

I think they always wanted to do their jobs. I don't think any police officer decided in 2019, when he was elected, that they just were going to throw their hands up and no longer want to enforce laws, right? That's not how they're built. They want to do their jobs. But I think what we saw was morale go down into the toilet, because they felt as though the work that they were doing wasn't having any impact once it got to the DA’s office. And so I think they had a renewed energy when I took over that their work wouldn't go to waste. And of course, I went around to each police station and talked with officers and said, Look, we're here to be a good partner, we want to make the city safe. We can't do it without you. So let's all step up our game and do this at the highest level and provide what San Francisco needs and deserves. And so yes, has that translated into more cases? Absolutely. When you have a functioning partnership, people thrive in their work like in any environment, right. And so we have seen, again, drug dealing is one of the things that we track most closely. They've almost doubled the number of cases that they've submitted to our office since I took over. And when I say doubled, that's in the hundreds, not 50 additional cases, that's 450 additional cases in a year than what they were bringing before and so they have really stepped up and as I see and talk to police officers, they tell me that they Feel reinvigorated because they see the fruits of their labor paying off.

Ben Kaplan  20:06

Do you want to change the trajectory of our city on issues like public safety, civic disorder, and government accountability? If you want change to happen now and feel that San Francisco City Leadership isn't moving nearly fast enough, come join our movements. Learn more at WWE San One of the things that it's been interesting to look at we have an organization called a we we look at, we like to look at a lot of data. We have a lot of volunteer data scientists and data analysts who help us with that. And when you look at the SFPD clearance rates, essentially, like the cases that are solved, they're kind of low just from a layman's point of view, right? Like one out of five robberies and rapes. Currently rates assault one out of eight burglaries one out of 16 instances of motor vehicle theft, what do we need to do to get those numbers higher? Oh, it

Brooke Jenkins  20:56

depends on the type of case what will help when it comes to auto burglary and auto theft, we need more police. A big problem with solving those cases is that nobody sees the crime, right? auto burglary generally happens in a matter of seconds. Usually, it's when people are not around. They are professional crews. This is what they do for a living. They have the tools they need, they have getaway drivers, they have an operation plan, they Scout where to go do this, they are prepared right to go out and make their money. And so we have to have police stationed in certain places to function as a deterrent, and to see license plates to see suspects to pursue suspects. And if they're not there, they can't do that. And generally most of us are not in a position to do that for them, right. And so that is a big problem with clearance rates in those types of crimes. retail theft is now becoming one just like that, when I was prosecuting retail theft stores used to civilian detain thieves, meaning security guards or even store employees would grab the person as they were about to walk out of the store with the items, put them in handcuffs and tie them in handcuffed them to a bench in the back of the store call the police, police would show up and take over. They don't do that anymore. So now people just walk out. And half of them are masked. I mean, there's all sorts of reasons why at that point, it's very difficult to then trace who that was and what they took. And so you're gonna see lower clearance rates because of that robbery and rape, a little bit of a different story. Of course, robbery can be determined by the presence of police. But those those two units, you know, those two crimes have investigative units dedicated to them. But again, limited staff, we will always have a limit of you know, a limited number of staff who conduct those investigations. That's where surveillance video can be more handy when it comes to investigating robbery, and other license plate readers those types of technology in order to better sort of be able to identify who suspects are identified getaway cars track those cars as they come in and out of our city and go to other jurisdictions, rape is a is a more complicated crime. And the issue there is, generally it's something that only happens in a private space between two people. And more often than not, the perpetrators are known to the victim, which is, you know, probably not what most people would think. But it is. And so we are generally up against not always having corroborating evidence for what a victim is saying. So it may not even be that that SFPD can't identify the suspect they often can. It's whether or not they have enough to then substantiate that the act occurred and therefore probable cause to arrest. So it's a little bit different.

Ben Kaplan  23:50

And what about all of the cases there was headlines recently, I think, you know, maybe back in back in January about a lot of cases being dismissed that were very old that we're just kind of caught in the legal system, there's not enough throughput, and there was a lot of a little bit of a sense of kind of blame game of of who it is that the courts fault didn't get us through. Is it the DBAs fault for not having enough evidence to get the screw? What should people and residents understand about just cases being dismissed, particularly ones that have lasted for years? Oh,

Brooke Jenkins  24:17

thank you for asking this question, because there is a common misperception that delays in cases are the result of lazy prosecutors. And that could not be further from the truth. The Constitution only affords a criminal defendant with a speedy trial right. victims don't get that the DA's office doesn't get that right. The US Constitution determined that the only person who gets to determine the speed of the case is the person charged with the crime. And so what you see happen is defendants at the advising have their attorneys refused to assert that speedy trial right? And you would say well, why would they do that? Wouldn't they want the case resolved sooner? Well, you have to imagine as the years passed As by what that means for the difficulty of our prosecutions, we have victims who get frustrated, who decide they'd walk, they don't want to be participants in the process anymore. We lose track of witnesses over time, phone numbers change, people move, people become disengaged, some, some of our witnesses are unhoused. Imagine trying to track them down, right, five years later. And so defendants know this, their attorneys know this. And so they have a self interest in delaying. So you

Ben Kaplan  25:31

think this is like an actual strategy from defense, as opposed to just the courts, you know, kind of being inefficient and bureaucratic and can't get it through that it's actually a defense strategy. It

Brooke Jenkins  25:39

is absolutely a defense strategy. And recently, we just resolved a case that was 13 years old, I believe it was a sexual assault case, a series of sexual assaults with multiple victims. And on the jail recordings, the defendant was on the phone with someone else saying, I am going to push this case out, because I believe that it will frustrate the victims, and they won't cooperate anymore. It's not in my interest to speed this trial up. And that case set for 13 years in that courthouse, we have to have judges who will really force the hand of defense lawyers to say, no longer are we going to grant continuances, where there's not good cause for that continuance, right. There's a there's a legal term called good cause. That means you have to demonstrate that there's an actual basis for your request to continue a case. You can't just come in and willy nilly say, right, we're not ready. Let's just keep pushing this out. And we, and I've advised my lawyers, we're not going to sit on our hands and be complicit in this by not objecting, right? Oftentimes, yes, it's easy as prosecutors to say, well, then if that case isn't right on a fast track, then I'll prioritize the ones that are, we have to also walk in and say, We won't stand by and sit on our hands while defense lawyers delay cases for years without standing up and asserting the victim's voice in the process to say, Judge, push this along. You

Ben Kaplan  27:07

bring up the point of judges in the recent March election, there were a couple of judges on the ballot, which doesn't always happen. Superior Court judges, the challengers ran kind of robust campaigns did not win. What is the role of judges in all of this? Do residents who want things to be tougher on crime have a right to complain about the judges,

Brooke Jenkins  27:26

judges shouldn't be independent, they should be judicially neutral, right? They should enter into a case into a courtroom and evaluate a case neutrally. Unfortunately, they're humans. And with with being human, that means you carry in life experience, and you look at the world through a certain lens. Many of our judges used to be defense lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, some used to be prosecutors. And so they're coming in with a perspective based on the lens for which they see the world. Right, and the experiences that they've had. They bring ideal ideology into

Ben Kaplan  28:03

a famously progressive liberal city, do you feel that as a whole judges in our city sort of have bring that life experience of, you know, a progressive perspective, which a lot people may appreciate? Or like, but maybe don't want that in a judge? Do you think that's true here?

Brooke Jenkins  28:19

Yes, I think we have an overwhelming number of judges who have more of a viewpoint that would align, you know, against the prosecution. And again, it's not to say they should not be judges. But when you put on the robe, and you walk in the courtroom, just like we tell jurors, you're supposed to leave that behind, right? You're supposed to come in and set that aside and look at the evidence and the law and evaluated independent of your experience, ideology, whatever the

Ben Kaplan  28:50

definition of of a judge correct, but you and you don't think judges are doing this,

Brooke Jenkins  28:54

that does not happen in the Hall of Justice here in San Francisco. And so that is a part of the problem. And, you know, I know that folks in the courthouse had been upset that I speak up about what's going on. But I believe that the public is entitled to know what decisions are being made in our courthouse. At the end of the day, they don't appoint themselves, they're appointed by our governors, right, we are allowed to have a voice with our governors about who is being appointed, have them be evaluated a certain way. And then if people are not satisfied, there's a democratic process in place for superior court judges to choose something different. And that's okay. That is That is fine. And this isn't about tough on crime soft on crime. Again, it's about neutrality. And we still have to have a system of justice that holds people accountable, whether it means sending them to prison or not. I need them to hold people accountable to their treatment programs, right. I want people to succeed when they're trying to get clean and get into recovery. I want people to be able to manage their mental mental illness. And the only way to do that is if a judge In partnership with both sides, comes together and says if somebody falls off the wagon, I'm going to force them to get back on. Right? Otherwise, if we keep having issues, then I've got to send you a different way. But what's been happening is that judges are saying, You know what, it's okay if you fall off the wagon, and I'll just leave you off. And I'll still give you the benefit of the bargain. That doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help us as a society with public safety. And it doesn't help that individual who needed to get clean, and now you're allowing to stay on drugs.

Ben Kaplan  30:30

What do you think the effect of the march election will be on judges? What I mean is that the two incumbent judges they retain their seats won fairly handily in that election. But of course, they didn't expect to have challengers that forced them to go out and have meetings and speak to people and maybe do something differently. Do you think that will have an effect either on saying, Ah, we're safe, we're uncommitted judges, or oh, we better be careful what we do, because we might get a challenger, if we are not objective or don't reflect the will of the people

Brooke Jenkins  30:59

that, you know, it's hard to say what the impact of that election is going to be. I mean, this isn't the first time we've had judges be challenged, we had four judges, when I was a younger prosecutor be challenged by public defenders, for public defenders who have decided to run against them. So this isn't completely new territory for them. My My only desire out of all of this is that, again, we get to a place of neutrality, that public safety be a consideration in the Hall of Justice as it's supposed to be. Judges are supposed to consider public safety in their analysis of the decisions that they make with respect to sentencing with respect to custody status at the beginning of a case. And I just hope that they are able to take into consideration what is best for this city, in the decisions that they make as they are obligated to

Ben Kaplan  31:51

it really came to head recently, a lot of us in the Asian community were very concerned about really a 94 year old woman who was stabbed back in 2021. On Pang Taylor and the person who did this to her receive five years probation, I think you are asking for I think, like 12 years in prison, do people have a right when they see these cases come out to, you know, to be like to actions not have consequences anymore at the seams like, you know, multiple stabbings of an elderly woman is a horrendous thing. And even though this person, you know, has mental health issues, it looks like Do people have a right to be outraged about that?

Brooke Jenkins  32:31

People absolutely have a right to be outraged. I mean, we're entitled to our opinions about the things that happen, decisions that get made. Sometimes the outrage is directed at me as the DA sometimes it's directed at other people in this particular situation, it was directed towards the part of the system that gave that decision that rendered that decision. You know, I want to first preface this by saying do I believe the outrage has to have boundaries? And yes, it does. And to the extent that this judge has expressed that she has received death threats, inappropriate illegal, Adam bounce, right, if that's true, but civic outrage is normal, we protest all the time about all sorts of things, right? People have been on the front steps of the Supreme Court of the United States protesting the ruling in Roe v. Wade. Right. They're entitled to those free speech rights. And so what we have to be able to express in demand is again, that our criminal justice system function in a way that is responsible. And when we talk about somebody that violent, right, and really the most vulnerable type of victim you will ever see other than 94 year old woman, child, yes, you get no more defenseless than a 94 year old woman. We want to make sure that we aren't we do as a system what we need to to protect people.

Ben Kaplan  33:51

we've chatted before that this was a retired judge, I didn't realize retired judges come back and really important cases like that, but there's this, the circumstances of a judge this would not be a judge that would be up for reelection would have other considerations does that factor in so most people don't realize that little things like that can affect an outcome and something that a lot of people care about?

Brooke Jenkins  34:11

Yes, of course. I mean, when you're talking about retired judges who come and visit the courthouse to settle cases or to sit and do hearings, they don't have to have those same considerations that the other judges do. And so they have a bit more personal freedom when it comes to, you know, any backlash that could result from a decision that people disagree with? And so, you know, Are they helpful? Absolutely. We need them to sometimes come in and fill in for judges who are on

Ben Kaplan  34:39

throughput and yes, through so you need retired judges to help very normal

Brooke Jenkins  34:44

that those judges come back and be used in that fashion. Again, I don't care what the situation is. I just want to make sure that, you know, we always stand in advocacy for justice for victims. What's just in proportion towards defendant and what is best for public safety in San Francisco? And for that reason I spoke up.

Ben Kaplan  35:07

Do you have a special skill that you'd love to contribute back to the city we all love. We're looking for volunteers with skills in diverse areas, like photography, videography, social media, data science and accounting. Find out how much fun it can be to change San Francisco's future at WWE San And what about just throughput in the system, one of the maybe criticisms or critiques from those on the left that says, Okay, if you start criminalizing low level offenses, or low level drug offenses or drug use, that it's gonna slow down our system and take away from the really big important cases, like violent

Chesa Boudin - WASF  35:49

attacks, we're asking them to do many, many things that they are not trained for. And inevitably, that comes at a cost. And the problem is, it's coming at a cost to their core basic function, solving burglaries, solving robberies, solving rates, they're not doing those basic jobs. Well, because we've distracted them with all these other things that they simply don't have the tools to address. Do

Ben Kaplan  36:09

you think there is a valid argument that if we prosecute to many things than the big stuff gets away? Not

Brooke Jenkins  36:16

at all. So first of all, we have an office set up in a way that people who handled the lower level crimes are in a separate unit from those who handle violent crime, we're not, we're not taking away from our violent crime units in order to bolster our misdemeanor unit, those are two separate right things in the criminal justice system. So in the courthouse, the courthouse has to manage its own efficiency, what we cannot do is decide that we are going to not enforce laws for the sake of helping our courthouse manage its calendars. That can't be the case, right? i My job is to enforce all laws in the city and county of San Francisco. I'm not a legislator, I don't get to decriminalize certain things, because I don't like the crime on the books, I you know, have an ideological disagreement with the crime on the books, or otherwise feel like my office has too much work to do. I have to enforce all laws, because that is my job. And the courthouse has to make sure that whatever cases come through it, that they can manage it effectively. Right. When it comes to low level crime, the problem in San Francisco is the volume of it. Of course, you know, we would love to focus all of our attention on robberies, and rapes and murders. But when you talk about a city right now, that's overrun with people using drugs on our streets, in certain areas where children are having to walk by and see that where the resulting behavior, in addition to being under the influence that comes from it public defecation exacerbating people's mental health problems, who have mental illness, violent behavior, sometimes that comes out of people who are under the influence, we have to help them address that underlying substance abuse problem. Do I wish that it could be dealt with outside of my lane? So outside of the criminal justice system? Yes, I do. But sometimes this is the only thing that will sort of propel folks into getting the help they need.

Ben Kaplan  38:18

One of the reforms you've done is I think, introduced what's called colloquially a bundling process for in terms of someone who's who's cited multiple times for public drunkenness. I think originally it started, I believe, about five instances of this, you reduced it to two instances of this and they get routed to this Community Justice Center has that been effective? Like you said, there's it seems like it's so pervasive has that made a difference in sort of bundling of citations and trying to direct people to a place to help.

Brooke Jenkins  38:45

So so far, it has not been very effective, I'm going to be honest and transparent. Again, a part of the issue is, once you get there, what happens? One mill almost all of these people are released from custody within hours of their arrest. And when you're talking about somebody who is dealing with substance abuse, they do what they immediately after a few hours, especially if you're addicted to fentanyl, go get high again. And so we can't expect them to acknowledge a court date when their sole focus in life at this point is their next high. And so we have to as a system, figure out something better, right to keep them engaged in the court process. The other thing is, again, to the extent that people do show up, there has to be accountability within our treatment courts. And that is fundamentally lacking right now. And so I have been very open that I don't see this as moving the ball the way that I wished it would from the outset. And so I've really been pushing on public, the public health side of this to figure out how our city gets better interventions before people end up in the system.

Ben Kaplan  39:50

And I think one of the aspects of sort of the Community Justice Center as a whole is really there's a second change that you made related to that, which almost changes the nature of the center and that is a lot of people People who were charged with distributing or dealing fentanyl would end up at the Community Justice Center, you rescinded a lot of plea deals you felt were too lenient, redirect people away from that has that been effective,

Brooke Jenkins  40:11

that hasn't been effective. So I wasn't able to remove people that Chaisson had already allowed in their cases administration had allowed in, but what I could was would do was cut off the pipeline. And so no longer are drug dealers allowed into that treatment court. Do we have people who again, we know are substance abuse users who might hold for a dealer? Yes, that might be treated differently could be if we think it's appropriate. But for those who are simply dealing, most of them do not have a substance abuse issue. They no longer go to that court.

Ben Kaplan  40:45

And what about the argument people say is that if you take a lot of action on low level drug dealers, they just get replaced? It's not the high level person who's really the person responsible, who's out there on the streets, but they're just going to get someone else? Or do you think you can make a difference by making things tougher and more severe for especially those who are dealing drugs?

Brooke Jenkins  41:02

I absolutely think we make we can make a difference. I think we are making a difference. And I always question people who say that, and ask them. So what do you think we should do? throw up our hands and allow them to deal? I mean, is that the solution that we simply don't enforce drug dealing laws? To which I never get a response? Of? Of? Yes, that's the solution. I think to the extent that we enforce our laws, it can function as a deterrent, people have to believe there's a consequence, when you teach them that there is no consequence, well, then what do they do, they pass along that information to others. And the problem becomes more pervasive, which is what was happening, everything going out bound was San Francisco is a safe place to deal drugs, nothing will happen to you. And so we saw one dealer, turn into five, five, turn into 1515, turn into 30, on on block by block locations. Now the message is spreading, San Francisco is not a safe location to do your drugs anymore. And so we have seen the number of dealers out during the day, reduce considerably. Now, do we still have a problem with them coming out at night? Absolutely. That means we then have to shift their behavior shifts ours as law enforcement shifts, but they are learning slowly, but surely, that this isn't the place that's so comfortable for them anymore. And so that then deters right? How many people continue to come here to deal and it allows us to hone in on those repeat offenders who keep getting caught for it.

Ben Kaplan  42:33

And you mentioned dealing at night. I mean, one mayoral candidate Mark Farrell, I think came out and said he wants to close down like sort of dysfunctional parks that have this problem may be certain areas of sort of town central areas, do you actually support closing down areas that are high drug areas, especially at night?

Brooke Jenkins  42:50

I mean, I certainly believe again, we have to use every tool in our toolbox to assist us in this process. Right. To the extent that public parks, like you in Plaza have closing hours, then yes, of course, we should enforce that. To keep people out of those spaces. I think we have to be creative in a number of ways to deal with this issue. We never did. I think that the minute I got into office, people would just run off and stop selling drugs. At the end of the day, that will never happen. We'll always have a drug market somewhere, because that's just what happens in in society. But we have to curb as much of it as we can. And doing that right now means using every available tool in our tool belt to make it more difficult for them to set up shop.

Ben Kaplan  43:39

Finally on property crime, FBI came out with recent numbers on the sort of comparing police departments all across the US I think San Francisco and property crime was ranking in the top five per capita. And I would argue that it's one of the issues that causes the most sort of like demoralization among residents, not because property crime is the most serious issue, but it's because unchecked feeling like why even bother reporting it is demoralizing. Do you agree with that or not? The property crime, while not a high level offense is affecting the attitude of the culture of the city.

Brooke Jenkins  44:12

I think you're absolutely right. We are a city, a major city, an urban city that has one of the lowest violent crime rates in our country. That is not the issue here. The issue is property crime. Most San Franciscans will tell you right that the pressing thing on their mind is how many times their car has been broken into if they're a small business owner, how many times their small business has been vandalized or broken into. And so we have to treat that for the problem that it is back in. I think 2018 We were at our highest point in auto burglaries reported auto burglaries were at we're at over 30,000 in a year back then. I mean, that's just what was reported. So really, that was probably closer to 40,000 and in reality it's though that's not just impacting folks who live here, it's impacting the people who are coming to visit, because overwhelmingly they choose tourist locations. And

Ben Kaplan  45:08

it's affecting the story of people going back home and saying, Oh, are you okay in San Francisco, how you doing that kind of The annoying thing San Franciscans experience when they talk to others in the city,

Brooke Jenkins  45:17

or you go back home and you say, On my last day of the trip, our rental car got broken into our luggage and my passport was stolen, that's not the place you want to go visit, right? Check, cross that off your list of cities, right for your next vacation. And so we can't have that be our reality, we have to address these problems. And I can't make it seem as though Oh, we shouldn't worry about it. Because it's non violent crime. Oh, we can be lenient on that. Because it's non violent crime, we have to address it for what it is. And so my focus along with the police has really been not only them deterring the behavior by being more present in areas where auto burglaries more common, but us really drilling down on who these prolific auto burglary crews are. Because to the extent that we can disrupt them and incapacitate their activity, the more we really reduce the number of overall auto burglaries and things like that, that go on. I mean, you're talking about crews that can go out and commit 20 or 30 of these in a matter of hours every day. Right. And so when you can shut that off, it makes a huge difference overall.

Ben Kaplan  46:24

So is there hope for the next two years? I know sometimes people hear like, oh, it's going to take us seven years or 10 years or another election cycle to write the ship. If people are impatient and don't want the status quo to stick around. Is there hope for the next two years?

Brooke Jenkins  46:39

There absolutely is hope we have made tremendous progress, just in what I can't even remember how long I've been in office now, what 20 months. I mean, we've made tremendous progress. We have seen most of our categories of crime trend downward in reported crimes. And here's the thing, unlike three or four years ago, where people were saying, I throw up my hands, I'm not even going to report. Hopefully now they have more trust in the system to to take that time. But the chief and I have been going around telling people each and every day report, report report, please don't hold on to that information. Please don't write be complacent, even if it takes hours report that crime so that we know what's going on with you in your neighborhood in your area at your store. And so I have no reason to believe that people aren't reporting crime right now. And we have seen retail theft reduced dramatically. auto burglaries have cut in half in the last six months. And so the work that we're doing to step up, our game is being effective. What we need is for all of us to kind of see this through, right. I have a phenomenal partner in chief Scott he wants, he wants to do his job. He wants his department to be effective, he cares about the city. And so right now we are working together, you finally as a city have, for the first time in a long time, a mayor, a police chief and a DA who can sit down together and talk about solutions. How long has it been since that's been the case. And so now we finally have momentum, right? We're headed in the right direction. And I assure San Francisco I'm not going to stop until we get there.

Ben Kaplan  48:26

Want to join our movement to get San Francisco back on track and attend to the town hall event or stop by our poplar we have the our meetups. Better yet, join our data team, take the census, or help us audit the city budget to join the movement text us at 415301 6700. That's 415-301-6700 or learn more at WWE San How's the campaign going? You get to work on all these really important issues. But then you also have to think about re election. You're up for re election November. Have you started thinking like a candidate? Again, I know the processes have has begun. What are you doing now? Campaign West?

Brooke Jenkins  49:10

Yeah, you know, it's hard to believe that I'm back in another election cycle. It feels like the last one just happened. And for me, it's about Yes, of course I have to go out and have to campaign I have to raise money, right? I have to fundraise. I have to do the outreach. But fundamentally, I have to do this work. Because the only thing that San Franciscans want right now are results. And so most first and foremost, I am dedicated to making sure that we see improvement, because the only thing that's going to matter in November is whether that is happening. You know, yes, I am in a race now that's opposed idea. I

Ben Kaplan  49:52

have one new candidate or I think Ryan could just stay who's actually one of the people you fired. I think I don't know if that how often that happens. When you came into office, is that expected was an unexpected? Have you had a chance to sort of assess that, you know,

Brooke Jenkins  50:06

I always expected I would have an opponent. I don't know that I expected him. But as I sit here now, I do believe that I am the strongest candidate for San Francisco, I have the experience to do this job as a line prosecutor that you need in order to understand what it takes to prove cases. I have renewed the partnerships with our you know, fellow law and or enforcement agencies that it's going to take to get this mission accomplished. And again, we are seeing the fruits of that labor each and every day. It might be slow, but it's steady. I want to

Ben Kaplan  50:46

end on just lightning round, which is just fun questions get to know you. The heart stops over all right, but it's like sometimes people don't know about their da and their background. We know you're on the Berkeley track and field team. Yeah. Was it hurdles? Yes, I

Brooke Jenkins  50:59

ran the 400 hurdle. 400 hurdles, you're

Ben Kaplan  51:01

a mom also, you're hurtling things over? Are you an athletic person, which people know about you just like kind of personally, your background?

Brooke Jenkins  51:07

Yes, I am very athletic. I grew up playing all sorts of sports my whole life. I still, like I said, workout every morning, but no more running, because I'm kind of over that these days. So I do a lot of high intensity interval workouts. So most you get is about 15 seconds rest between reps, you're doing a lot of

Ben Kaplan  51:25

good training for being da,

Brooke Jenkins  51:26

you know, it gets my mind in the right place to fight to fight crime and San Francisco politics everyday, that's for sure. Okay. Well,

Ben Kaplan  51:34

and then also you have in your work history, I mean, you actually worked at the NCAA, which makes sense, your sports you were, I think Assistant Director of Enforcement. Does that experience? Not, you know, seems like very different than what you're doing now. But what did that teach you? Did you learn anything from that I'm working with the NCAA, it's actually

Brooke Jenkins  51:51

very similar work. You were sort of the prosecutors of the NCAA, but you you couple that with also being an investigator, so you don't have a different investigator go and investigate the cases or the, you know, your charges, per se. You go into that yourself. And then if you gather enough evidence, then you go before the board to preselect, nfhca Rules

Ben Kaplan  52:15

violations this, she was doing illegal recruiting outside of the period, and you're gonna go That's right,

Brooke Jenkins  52:21

or back then because now I feel old. You know, we didn't have an IO, which now allows athletes name

Ben Kaplan  52:27

image and likeness, they can make money as your cane on this. Yes. And so

Brooke Jenkins  52:31

back then it was like, you know, were you paying players to come to your university and play football or basketball and and so, you know, times were different back then. And there was a lot of that going on. And that's what we were looking into,

Ben Kaplan  52:44

which is almost like looking into like, sort of corruption in the NCAA system. We didn't have a chance to talk about this. But it seems like there's so many instances of corruption in Santa Fe, you know, people who are high level officials being you know, led out in handcuffs kind of starts with Mohammed new route. It goes from there. But what is the role of your office and all of that? Did you focus on that? Or is there enough other stuff that you've got to deal with? That's not a primary? Oh, no, that

Brooke Jenkins  53:07

that is a very important focus of ours, we are who prosecute on the state level, those types of crimes. And so we have a robust public integrity unit in my office that is under our white collar crime division. And they they've been working around the clock, really, since I took over I mean, we've we've filed a number of cases, very public cases involving city government workers, I should say, in San Francisco folks associated with government workers in corruption schemes. And so I have to say, it is a top priority for us. We want to make sure that government resources are not being stolen from the city. We're at a point right now where we have a significant deficit. But also, it just is a bad look for San Francisco and it can't be allowed. And so

Ben Kaplan  53:58

which supports this idea of anything goes or there isn't consequences or things are mismanaged, that sort of affects the

Brooke Jenkins  54:05

Absolutely, absolutely. And we can't just hold right, the little people accountable, we have to make sure that there's again, accountability across the board, for anyone that commits crime in the city. And so, again, I'm really proud of that unit, because they've been doing some great work in their investigations have yielded a number of cases that we filed recently. And it looks like there will be more to come. What

Ben Kaplan  54:27

do you do in San Francisco? We know you work out but is there anything else you do to let off steam? What do you have a frustrating day when you have people coming at you? You know, on the political front? What else do you do in the city to kind of relax?

Brooke Jenkins  54:40

You know, so most people know this. I have two kids. They're four and seven, four year old son a seven year old daughter my daughter is in three sports right now. So I am all over the place with her

Ben Kaplan  54:51

because you're going to practice the practice game to game usually get to

Brooke Jenkins  54:55

the practices. Grandma does handle that but I do go to the games of course. And really it's about when I have free time, what do they want to do? You know, on a weekend we go to playgrounds, we go to slime kitchens, we whatever it is that can entertain them. They are who fill my cup? They are they are who make everything else, you know, kind of worth. It

Ben Kaplan  55:20

just says just being a mom affects how you look at things as da what is the relationship there? Yes,

Brooke Jenkins  55:28

I often use analogies for doing this job. And being a parent. Every day as a parent, you really work too when your kid does something that they shouldn't have done. To get your point across that they can't continue with that behavior. But not be too harsh, right? Still have them understand your we love you. You're still a part of our family. You're still you know how to

Ben Kaplan  55:52

do I have a three year old and a two year old? Teach me. Okay, sounds good.

Brooke Jenkins  55:56

But you also can't be too lenient, because then they'll just keep doing that bad thing. So you're always trying to figure out what is that sweet spot that kind of gets my point across and leads them towards their productive future. It's the same thing as a prosecutor. I don't want to be too harsh. We should not be too harsh. We can't be too lenient, either. Because we still need to have accountability and get the point across. But you're struggling every day for each individual person that you prosecute to figure out like what is the sweet spot for you? Right, that gets you back on track towards a productive life. And any prosecutor who tells you that the job is easy, shouldn't be doing it, because they're not doing it correctly. Any parent that tells you parenting is easy, probably isn't getting it right. And so a lot of times that's the way that I try to relate it to people because it's it's very similar. But no that's that's a being a mom has truly, I think made me a better prosecutor.

Ben Kaplan  56:50

Well, and any recommendations if you have out of town visitors that are coming to the city, hidden gems places you go as a parent, I need things to occupy my kids on the weekends. Anything that is a go to for you in the city that you appreciate about San Francisco.

Brooke Jenkins  57:04

Yes. So I would if you have kids say go to Tunnel Tops. Okay, this phenomenal, beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge they've got if it's the summer, they've got water spraying out of things, playgrounds bring the change of clothes, that, but it's great. If you're looking for a good burrito in this city go to Lattakia in the mission, they have the best burritos in the city, in my opinion. I go there often, sometimes multiple times a week. But so those are my two recommendations. Okay.

Ben Kaplan  57:39

And final final question is, if you had the ability to enact any change as district attorney, you could do anything. One thing that would make the most impact for the city, but you do it within reason. It's like you you can't change the entire system at once. But like in a day, but you have the power to just do one thing that you think would get us closer back to the city we want to be what would that be a

Brooke Jenkins  58:02

lot when I get questions that keep me the one answer. So, I mean, if we're talking about quickly solving the problems that I need to solve as the DA, then I would have to say, more police, right, because we need them to be more effective at deterring crime. And sadly right now we need their presence, most of the time to be able to do that. If I if I kind of step outside of that, you know, the right here and right now solution, that I think it always comes back to our investment really in our schools. And I think we've got to, we need to make up some groundwork when it comes to early education in this city. You know, as a parent, it's obviously something very important to me, as you know. And I think we've got to prepare people to succeed in our city. And it starts with their foundation. Right. And I think we've had a number of issues with that lately. And in a lot of ways, teachers being paid, you know, stuff with the school board, like all kinds of things that I think we have to get back to the basics of giving people the tools in our city to succeed

Ben Kaplan  59:10

well, and this idea of to be a great city are a great society or a great community, there has to be social mobility, meaning just because of where you're born, and your station in life does not determine where you end up. So if we believe in that if we believe in those values, it's not only how we deal with crimes and lawlessness, but it's also there has to be a ladder away up and we have to commit to that to be to be great.

Brooke Jenkins  59:34

We can't just say it, we have to do it. Right it we love to proclaim right these values that we have here as a city. But when we look at the implementation, is it real? Right? What's behind the words? And you're right, if people feel hopeless, if I'm a child who feels hopeless by the time I get to 15 What do I have to lose when I'm offered the idea of going to go rob somebody for their Rolex watch, I have nothing to lose, because I'm hopeless that there is any social mobility and you feel like,

Ben Kaplan  1:00:05

oh, this whole system is against me anyways, why should I have to play by the rules unless there's an alternative.

Brooke Jenkins  1:00:11

And so I tell people all the time, public safety at its core is preventing crime in the first place. It's not the system's response to the crime. After it happens. It's less victims. And the only way we create less victims, fewer victims, is to give people the hope that they need to feel like my life is headed somewhere. And committing this crime or doing this drug isn't for me. And I just think we still have a long way to go in San Francisco in a number of communities across San Francisco to get people to that place of hope. Thank

Ben Kaplan  1:00:46

you so much. Brooke Jenkins, a San Francisco District Attorney running for re election in November. And thank you so much for your insights. It's going to be an interesting race and an interesting future for San Francisco and thank you for all of your contributions.

Brooke Jenkins  1:00:58

Thank you. It's a great conversation


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