San Francisco's 1st female sheriff considers changes to ‘sanctuary city' policy

It’s the first week on the job for San Francisco’s new sheriff, Vicki Hennessy, and she’s already talking about possible changes surrounding the ‘sanctuary city’ policy

The city’s first female sheriff sat down for an interview with KTVU to discuss some of her administration’s plans.

“I'm not somebody that has a lot of drama in me, but I couldn't resist being proud of that moment,” she said about her victory in November.

In her first week in office, Sheriff Hennessy is not wasting time.

“I am all business. It’s been a whirlwind,” says Hennessy. She’s no frills, no fuss and is a 40-year veteran with the department. “There are some changing times and people are more interested in transparency and accountability and I think that's something that we have to rise to that challenge.”

One policy Hennessy is tackling head on is San Francisco’s sanctuary law regarding illegal immigrants.

“The sanctuary city laws do not allow detention and that's well and good and I support that, but I do think there is a place for notification under certain circumstances.”

She makes reference to the case of Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, who was released by San Francisco authorities last April after dropping drug charges against him, but failed to notify federal officials.

Lopez Sanchez is now the prime suspect in the shooting death of Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in July of last year. Lopez-Sanchez acknowledged shooting Steinle, but said the gun fired accidentally.

Hennessy says immigrants have questioned her motives.

“They think that this just means that the federal government is going to swoop down and start taking them away that's not the case. What we're talking about here is looking at people's criminal history for serious and violent convictions,” she says.

The previous sheriff’s administration was plagued by scandal; including deputy-staged, gladiator-style fights between inmates for entertainment and gambling.

Hennessy promises accountability through holding her deputies accountable day-to-day so that they don't get to that level of screwing up.

She oversees the county’s jails, which house more than 1,200 inmates. She says she’s disappointed that the city didn’t give the green light for a new jail.

“I still think we lost an opportunity on a personal level and I do think that we do need a replacement facility,” she said.

But the self-described bridge builder says she won’t give up, especially when it comes to treating inmates humanely and with compassion.

“In the old days there was a lot of, ‘Let's just throw away the key. You know they're in jail , leave them there,’ but that's not the way it works,” she says.

Hennessy says she doesn’t look at her position as an ‘us against them’ job and she sees it as a balance between law enforcement and social justice.