SF DA's office names new chief of victims' services

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Wednesday announced a Bay Area native with two decades of experience in community health work will be the new head of her victims’ services division.

Monifa Willis as worked as a psychiatric nurse practitioner at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland and more recently was a professor at UCSF.

Willis becomes the latest high-ranking official to step into the office amid a staff overhaul, following the ouster of former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who voters recalled in June.

"I always say that this has been a calling for me," Willis said of her work helping victims. "It is super important that we recognize the impact of trauma on individuals but the impact of trauma on communities because I’m sure as people hear, hurt people, hurt people."

The victim services unit assists crime victims and families with resources like counseling and financial assistance. They also keep them updated on criminal cases and consider their desires for outcomes

Willis says her trauma-informed approach is something she knows about personally after losing her brother, who died in a stabbing in Lake County.

"It can take you apart and then you have to heal from that and I know what that looks like as well," she said.

Willis is stepping into the job as political tensions remain ultra-high. Several members of the division quit under Boudin, claiming victims were being left in the dark 

Boudin disputed those claims. He was recalled earlier this year and it’s still unclear if he will run for the post again in November. 

Willis says she wants to stay out of the fray, and focus of the work ahead.

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"Coming into an office that has, honestly, so much controversy going on around it, my first priority is to really make sure the victims’ advocates and the staff in the office feel heard," she said.

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at Evan.Sernoffsky@foxtv.com and follow him on Twitter @evansernoffsky