Brooke Jenkins culminated her first week as San Francisco’s top prosecutor by announcing a major staffing shakeup, marking a new era for an office she blamed for failing to hold criminals accountable under Chesa Boudin.
Jenkins began firing her predecessor’s hires one-by-one late Friday morning, axing nearly a dozen attorneys, including his spokesperson and one of his most ardent followers, Rachel Marshall.
Terminations continued throughout the day, with many staffers publicizing their departures on social media.
In addition to the 11 prosecutors, a spokesperson for Jenkins said the changes impacted four other employees out of a total staff of 320—and aim to focus resources to line attorneys and units that handle general felonies.
The overhaul significantly restaffed divisions that were central to Boudin’s mission of reforming the criminal justice system, including one that sought to hold the police accountable: the Independent Investigations Bureau. While the unit apparently remains, the IBB lost Lateef Gray, who helmed the division, and attorney Rebecca Young, who put an officer on trial for alleged excessive force.
“There’s a lot of very talented and committed people who are being let go, with decades of experience in the criminal justice system and a balanced perspective on the tremendous power that a prosecutor carries,” Tal Klement, assistant chief of general crimes, said after Jenkins fired him.
At the same time, Jenkins announced the hirings of an all-female upper management team that she said would help her strike a balance between holding criminals accountable and implementing reforms.
Jenkins is bringing on Ana Gonzalez, a former San Francisco prosecutor fired by Boudin, Nancy Tung, an Alameda County prosecutor who vied for the appointment as district attorney, and police attorney Tiffany Sutton.
Jenkins also tapped Rani Singh, a former San Francisco prosecutor and chief counsel for the sheriff, to advise her transition team.
In a statement Friday evening, Jenkins called the staffing changes “difficult, but important” steps toward advancing her agenda.
“I promised the public that I would restore accountability and consequences to the criminal justice system while advancing smart reforms responsibly,” she said. “My new management team, which will include the addition of three women of color, with decades of prosecutorial experience at the highest levels, will help our office deliver on that promise. I have full faith and confidence that these women will promote and protect public safety while delivering justice in all of its various forms.”
Marshall confirmed her firing in a text message, saying that the battle for criminal justice reform has “never felt more urgent” to her.
“There is no question that DA Jenkins’s approach differs dramatically from my values,” Marshall said. “My passion for the mission to reform our legal system is stronger than ever and I am eager for the next opportunity to effect change.”
Hurtado confirmed her termination on Twitter. She said she was the highest-ranking Latina and LGBTQ+ member of the management team.
“After over 2 years of tireless and devoted service,” Hurtado wrote, “I was unceremoniously fired without cause via phone by the Mayor’s appointed DA.”
“I will continue the fight 4justice,” she added.
After over 2 years of tireless and devoted service to the City and Cty of SF, I was unceremoniously fired without cause via phone by the Mayor’s appointed DA. I am the highest ranking Latina/LGBTQ member of the management team at that office. I will continue the fight 4justice— Arcelia Hurtado (@ArceliaHurtado) July 15, 2022
Unlike Boudin, who axed at least half a dozen attorneys in his first days as district attorney in early 2020, Jenkins waited a week to terminate anyone.
By turning over her upper management, Jenkins must now own the decisions the office makes under her leadership—and the impact, or lack thereof, those choices have on San Francisco.
As top prosecutor, Jenkins has pledged to end visible drug dealing in San Francisco and clear Tenderloin streets of drug users. While she hasn’t officially announced a cohesive plan for accomplishing those goals, Jenkins has signaled parts of her strategy in talks with staff and public addresses.
During her first meeting with staff after her swearing-in last week, she said she would review open drug cases filed by Boudin and decide whether to revoke pending plea offers that she may deem too lenient. Jenkins has also said she would work more closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, police and City Hall to repair relationships that deteriorated under Boudin.
Another key priority touted by the new district attorney is making the Chinese community feel safer. On a Chinatown walk-and-talk with local business owners and community leaders, Jenkins promised to take a closer look at high-profile cases involving Asian victims to decide whether to tack on hate crime enhancements Boudin didn’t charge.
Her appointment could also make Mayor London Breed more vulnerable to criticism about the state of San Francisco and its quality-of-life issues, since she was the one who named Jenkins to succeed Boudin.
Boudin, a progressive prosecutor, became a national lightning rod by diverting more people away from jail, eschewing cash bail and adopting a number of other policies that police and critics blamed for a rash of crime in the city.
Jenkins will have to run in November to finish out the final year of a term that voters elected Boudin to in 2019, before prematurely booting him from office.
It’s unclear whether Boudin will challenge her to reclaim his seat. The former district attorney has kept a relatively low-profile in the weeks since the recall.
Michael Barba can be reached at [email protected]