San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin claimed on Wednesday that he never supported police defunding, despite mounting evidence that he has multiple times in the past.
Boudin, who has been fighting against being recalled since November, is currently trying to reverse a major tide of support in favor of ousting him. Recall supporters, galvanized by high crime figures, numerous policy changes aimed at “decarceration”, and other factors, have led a charge that have gone better than they had planned for, with recent polls showing that 2 out of every 3 San Franciscan voter is in favor of recalling Boudin.
Faced with voters increasingly supporting his recall due to crime and public safety concerns, Boudin has been fighting back against in an attempt to stay in power past June. And with San Francisco voters showing once before earlier this year that they are willing to recall elected officials out of office, Boudin has been doing what he can to not share the same fate.
In an interview with SFGate on Wednesday, Boudin went a step further and claimed that he never supported to defund the police in the past, even calling defunding a “mistake.”
“We need to do a better job communicating the connection between criminal justice reform and public safety,” said Boudin. “I never talked about defunding the police. I never joined that call. Defunding the police was a mistake because I can’t prosecute cases if police don’t make arrests.”
“We need police to be more efficient. We need our public safety spending to be more efficient. We need to take things off of the police department’s plate, like responding to mental health crises, like responding to drug overdoses. I think if we do that, then we can have higher arrest rates, clearance rates in actual crimes that we need to be able to prosecute.”
“So if you’re someone who’s worried about police excessive force or problems with the police, my view is the answer isn’t to defund them. The answer is to hold them accountable when they commit crimes. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
However, between the George Floyd incident in June 2020 and up until recent months, Boudin has shown support for police defunding, most notably through reapportionment from police to other areas.
In a July 2020 interview along with Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Boudin, speaking only weeks into the post-Floyd turmoil, backed appropriating police funding to other areas of the budget.
“The conversation we are having today on a national level is frankly a conversation that I think elected officials should have in the budget cycle,” said Boudin in July 2020. “Is this the most effective way to use tax dollars? Are we getting a good return on our investment? Is there some other way we could spend this money that could make us safer? Or do a better job of achieving the goals that we have?”
“I want to focus on this term we’ve heard a lot in the last few months, this defund the police. It’s a movement that’s taken off. I think it’s started in critical conversations about the ways in which our country has responded to some of our most complex challenges in how we’ve used police as a one-size, fits all, one-sided response no matter whether we are dealing with an armed robbery in progress or someone having a mental health breakdown.
“During times of tight budgets, this has a tremendous fiscal cost that has come at the expense of other investments in our communities.”
The next month, Boudin showed support for police defunding yet again by sharing articles on social media in favor of it, including a Vox article called “How cities can tackle violent crime and defund the police.”.
It also came about last year. When San Francisco Mayor London Breed pushed forward efforts to defund the police, she based it largely on Boudin’s criminal justice reform policies. Boudin did not come out against her on this. However, when she changed her tune late last year after high-profile “flash-mob” style robberies in the city and with crime going up, Boudin opposed her renewed efforts to bring back police. Most notably, this happened with Mayor Breed’s crime crackdown effort in the Tenderloin.
Chesa Boudin and police defunding
“I’m outraged at the human suffering, flagrant violations of laws and safety concerns for families in the Tenderloin,” explained Boudin in December. “We can’t arrest and prosecute our way out of problems that are afflicting the Tenderloin. Arresting people who are addicted to drugs, jailing people who have mental health struggles, putting folks who are vending hot dogs or other food on the streets in cages will not solve these problems, and they are certainly not the only tools available.”
While Boudin has now distanced himself from past remarks about police defunding, the damage has largely been done.
“Boudin just failed at his policies and what he thought would work and is blaming everyone but himself at this point,” Frank Ma, a former law enforcement official who now works as a security advisor for businesses in San Francisco, told the Globe on Thursday. “His stance on police defunding, you know, that’s not helping. He never said specifically he was for it, but he approved of fund reapportionment and never spoke out against defunding at times when he could have. Going by what he said in the past, he entertained the idea.”
“He also has not owned up to what all of his policies have done. He’s been saying that he has been making arrests and prosecuting and such and yeah, he should be doing that. That’s his job. The problem comes when he decides not to prosecute on many crimes, which he has. Whenever he says something like “this isn’t the result of my policies” or “San Francisco’s high crime isn’t the result of criminal justice reform,” he’s just digging himself deeper because, as the polls show, most San Franciscans can put two and two together.”
“He’s trying to put the blame on conservatives, and those on the right, and those who are pro-police, and others. While, yes, they are mad at him, so are most people in the city. Boudin failed. Badly. And he won’t own up to it. Boudin scrambling on police defunding is just the latest attempt to do anything to stop the recall.”
The recall election of Chesa Boudin is to happen next week on June 7th, Primary election day.
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