Thank each and everyone one of you for being here. I did not get to this day alone. It was the result of a hard working team and most importantly, you — the voters. San Franciscans who made their voices loud and clear that they want a District Attorney committed to balancing accountability with much needed reform, and to serving you and this great city. Thank you for entrusting me to do this job- it’s the honor of a lifetime.
I also want to thank Senator Alex Padilla for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give me the honor of swearing me in. It is hard to believe that he is the first Latino US Senator from the State of CA, but thank you Senator for being a trailblazer, and for your service to this state and this country.
Thank you Jan for being an amazing MC tonight.
I also want to thank Mayor Breed, elected and non-elected members of the city, State, and other leadership who are here tonight. Thank you for your support and your dedication to representing San Francisco and the State of CA. Thank you to the neighboring county DA’s and judges who are in attendance as well.
I want to take a quick moment to thank my Campaign Manager — Jade Tu, who fearlessly ran her first political campaign and pushed me across the finish line. And the many volunteers who made phone calls, text-banked, knocked doors, held signs and walked with me through neighborhoods. To those who donated and hosted house parties, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To my staff, both my executive team seated here in front, and to the many attorneys, paralegals, investigators, victim advocates, IT staff, and everyone else in the DA’s Office, thank you for your dedication to our office and this city. You are the true champions of justice.
Last, but most importantly, I want to thank my family and friends who have stood by me and supported me through what has been a whirlwind of a past year. To my mother, who raised me and showed me what grit, perseverance and a true work ethic is, thank you. She retired to be a full time grandmother and has offered my children love, guidance and stability through the many changes in mommy’s career. To my husband who is the most private person i know, thank you for supporting me in this very public role. And to my children, Brooklyn and Judah, thank you for sharing mommy with San Francisco and for giving me the biggest hugs at the end of long and sometimes difficult days.
A year ago, I could not have imagined standing before you as the San Francisco District Attorney. It was a confluence of events that led not just me, but US, to this point. Unfortunately, the severe downward spiral of public safety in San Francisco and where it collided with ideology led our city to call for change. What everyone in this room and even those beyond it knew, was that we did not have to compromise our liberal and progressive identities, for the right to feel safe. That accountability and reform could coexist in our criminal justice system. On July 8th when I began in this role, we all stood together, hopeful for building a safer and better San Francisco.
As a Black and Latina woman, I will be honest that I never pictured myself holding this office or any other. I was raised by a single mother who was a 21 year old college student when I was born. She was raised by a 21 year old single mother who grew up in the segregated south as one of 11 children. My father, born and raised in war torn El Salvador, was here on student visa when he got my mother pregnant and ultimately returned to El Salvador after finishing his education. For much of my youth, I was keenly aware of working hard to not become a statistic — as children of color, raised in single parent families are often expected or perceived to be.
While my parents had little in common other than going to the same university, both of their families shared one core value — education. My grandparents in El Salvador gave their children everything they had to allow them to receive a great education. For my mother’s family, despite being Black in a small town in Texas, educated in segregated schools, education was key. My grandmother had brothers who were a doctor, a lawyer, a physicist and city councilman. She had sisters who were registered nurses. Receiving their education from some of the best HBCUs in the country — like Howard and Tuskegee. I watched my mother return to college to finish her degree while working full time when I was 10 years old, spending many evenings in college classrooms with her. Much was expected from us despite whatever circumstances life threw at us.
While I knew that I wanted to become a lawyer, I never intended to become a prosecutor. It never crossed my mind. Growing up Black in America, you do not under any circumstances trust law enforcement or the criminal justice system. You see its brokenness up close and its personal. It was a loss of Justice for me that led me to this critical role 8 years ago. And I don’t mean the loss of justice as a crime victim, or the family member of an accused, but rather the loss of my son Justice that took me down this path. I had no idea when we chose his name, that Justice would become something that I would fight for daily as a prosecutor and now as your DA. I truly believe that through Justice’s death, I was called to do this work. To fight for those who need justice in the criminal justice system. To provide JUST results in cases for both victims, defendants and our community.
As prosecutors, we serve a core and essential function in our City and County. That function is to promote public safety and to ensure that outcomes in the criminal justice system are fair and appropriate. This is a duty and obligation that we must not forsake.
When I was sworn in after my appointment — I outlined my priorities very openly which included doing everything in our power to curtail open air drug markets, working to address the violence and targeting of the AAPI community, particularly the elders, as well as working to institute or maintain important reforms in the system to continue to decrease the disparate treatment that people of color in particular have endured.
Over the past 6 months, we have begun to make significant progress in restoring accountability for drug dealing in San Francisco. I immediately revoked 30 excessively lenient plea offers in cases extended by the previous administration, restored guidelines for access into our rehabilitative courts to ensure that they aren’t being abused by drug dealers when they should be reserved for those actually struggling with addiction. We have filed motions to detain in custody egregious drug dealers in 16 cases — something that has never been done before in San Francisco. Since I took office, we were presented with 428 drug dealing cases by SFPD, up from 257 in the same time period the previous year. We filed charges in 379 of those cases, almost double the previous year. These are critical numbers that we did not achieve on our own. I must thank SFPD for their hard work on this issue. And I want to take this moment to truly commend Chief Scott and his department for their partnership. For the first time in a very long time, our agencies are working together, collaboratively, in the pursuit of public safety.
As an office, we have made tremendous strides since July. Not only has experience been restored to our management team, but I am most proud of the level of diversity that our management team reflects. Both in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and life experience. Of our 8 criminal division Chiefs, 4 are mothers — which is a first. We created a vulnerable victims unit which now handles violent crimes against elders, which has mainly impacted our elderly AAPI community. Our Victim Services Division is broadening its reach by engaging with more communities in San Francisco, and developing culturally responsive, trauma informed services for our victims and communities.
We have also been focused on continuing to pursue much needed criminal justice reform. One of my earliest policy announcements was that we would maintain a policy of not seeking cash bail. While we will always uphold our responsibility to advocate for public safety, we must acknowledge the disparate and discriminatory impacts of previous constructs within the criminal justice system. For the past six months, we have argued to keep dangerous offenders off the street without using this discriminatory tool. We have also continued and sought to improve the work of the Innocence Commission. I was thrilled to appoint a new member from our office who is working diligently with the Commission to enhance the helpt people who are seeking relief from wrongful convictions.
Moving forward, there is so much more that we need and plan to accomplish. When I visit the Tenderloin, the Mission and every single neighborhood in San Francisco, we must continue to hold those who commit crime in San Francisco accountable and improve conditions all around our city. We must continue to make it clear that a culture of lawlessness is no longer tolerated. Property crime, car break-ins, catalytic converter thefts, retail theft, will continue to be a focus for our office as we work closely with the police and community stakeholders to combat these issues.
But our focus for the future does not end with prosecution. We must invest as a DA’s office in uplifting the community. Reducing gun violence and the associated trauma that comes with it must be a primary focus of not just the DA’s office but of all city partners. We must work collaboratively with community based organizations on the ground to restore hope to the lives of so many of our youth who are struggling to see their piece of the American dream. Public safety is not simply accountability after a crime is committed, it includes preventing crime from happening in the first place.
The truth is — reform does not just mean doing away with laws or even their consequences. Reform is not lowering or eliminating expectations for those who come from underserved communities or disadvantaged backgrounds. To do so, would perpetuate the very same oppressive outcomes that people purport to want to prevent. If I expect you to be a criminal, and consistently convey that expectation, there is a higher chance a person will become such. We must not reduce Black and Brown communities, and other communities of color, to these stereotypes. Instead, we must level the playing field so that all members of our community can maintain a hope of achieving the American dream. Hope is what pushes people forward. Without hope, one has nothing to lose.
In this office, I strive to restore hope. Hope for those who have become disillusioned with a system that has failed to be a true advocate for victims of crime and to fight for justice. Hope for a system that no longer disadvantages people of color, as victims or as Defendants. Hope for those who’ve struggled not to simply give up on San Francisco and close up shop as a business owner, or pack up and move as a resident. Hope to those in the Tenderloin and SOMA who every day have to walk through and past what most would consider unlivable conditions. I have hope for San Francisco and our future.
My hope is that as you walk away tonight — is that you carry with you a renewed faith in the leadership of San Francisco, that we will build a future great city to what it can and should be. The place that I want my children to grow and be proud to have been born and raised in. A safer and better San Francisco for all. Thank you.