OAKLAND, Calif. - A week into her new job as San Francisco's district attorney, Brooke Jenkins sat down Thursday for a one-on-one interview with KTVU morning anchor Gasia Mikaelian to discuss her goals for the office.
Jenkins was appointed on July 9 by Mayor London Breed, following the recall of Chesa Boudin, whom critics said was too progressive and not tough enough on crime.
Jenkins was a former prosecutor for Boudin's office, but resigned last year to join the campaign that called for his removal, leading her to become a prominent voice in the recall movement against her former boss.
Here are slightly edited questions and answers from her interview:
Q: How do you balance reform with accountability?
A: It means that we have to have consequences for criminal behavior in San Francisco. And that doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to be locking everybody up. Accountability can come in many forms, and for most of our offenders, it's going to be rehabilitation or a requirement of vocational training. But there has to be some level of a consequence for those who commit crimes.
Q: Are those opportunities, those spaces in programs available right now?
A: Yes. There are many of those programs that are available. And we are going to make sure that we are utilizing them to the fullest extent.
Q: How will you measure success specifically in the Tenderloin?
A: It's going to be how the residents in that that live there feel how folks who walk through the Tenderloin, who are tourists and who want to come in, eat at some of their great restaurants, feel when they're walking through the streets. Do they feel a little bit safer as as we move forward with trying to make sure that we don't simply allow that area to be a safe haven for crime and drug dealing?
Q: Do you share, Mayor Breed's view that that district in particular has gotten completely out of control?
A: Yes. And as I walked through it the other day, I saw firsthand for myself just the problems that are plaguing the streets there. And as the mother of two young children, I could not imagine having to take my children through some of the things that I saw. I witnessed open air drug use while I was there. I saw people standing on the corner to sell drugs, the amount of other things that were going on. And garbage, honestly, that was on the street. And no parent should have to take their children through that type of environment.
Q: What are your plans for prosecuting people who are in possession of drugs, people who are dealing drugs?
A: We want to make sure that those who are struggling with addiction get the opportunity to have access to recovery programs. And we want to make sure that when they're in those programs, that they're not walking outside of the door to go to the local drug store or the local convenience store and having a dealer offer them drugs. With respect to those who are selling, it's going to be a mixed approach. We can't take a one-size-fits-all approach to any crime. Some people, depending on if they're repeat offenders, may have to be dealt with a certain way. Others, we want to make sure that we're providing them a path to legal employment.
Q: You say dealt with a certain way. What does that mean?
A: Again, it comes in many forms, but there may be people who do have to serve time or other things. But I want to make sure that we're treating everyone based on their individual circumstance and their previous criminal history.
Q: There were many people and lots of them outside the city who say, I want the D.A. to have a firm hand to clean up what's happening in San Francisco. Are you that person?
A: Yes, I am that person. But like I said, we are also a city of compassion that is dedicated to making sure that we give people who deserve it a second chance and people who want to turn their lives around the opportunity to do so. And accountability is connected to that recovery and that ability to rehabilitate your life. And so we want to continue to foster that opportunity for those who want it.
Q: Your predecessor, Chesa Boudin, got a lot of heat for reform. A lot of people said the city is out of control. How do you introduce your kind of reform while still making those necessary changes?
A: Yeah, because again, there were many one-size-fits-all policies in the office under the previous administration that can't exist. We have to have discretion to deal with each offender based on their individual circumstance. We also want to make sure that we're dealing with repeat and chronic offenders and violent offenders very differently than we are with some others who are first time offenders.
Q: You're in your first week on the job. Voters have a say on whether or not you'll serve the remainder of the term for another year coming up this November. As you're essentially learning how to be on the job, how far out are you looking?
A: I'm looking out to November, but I'm also taking each day as it comes because that's what's important. We need to be making sure that we're taking advantage of the time that we have to make these changes, to institute the changes that are necessary in the office to execute our mission, which is. Prioritizing public safety.