The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office unveiled a new section of its website on Friday that reveals a broad range of statistics regarding how often District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his staff file criminal charges. The announcement comes as Boudin continues to face harsh criticism from city leaders and even his own former prosecutors, who believe the latest release of data does little to exonerate Boudin's office from what they describe as failing and dangerous polices.
According to Boudin's office, the new digital dashboards provide current and historical data regarding the number of arrests and prosecutions for a wide range of crimes.
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“Members of the public will be able to easily follow San Francisco crime data over time, the number of incidents and the arrest and prosecution rates for more than 60 types of incidents from 2011 to present,” wrote Sara Yousuf, Deputy Director of Communications for the District Attorney, who issued a statement on behalf of the office announcing the new feature. The District Attorney's Office said the dashboards are intended to help residents see the relationship between incidents, arrests, and prosecutions.
Overall Prosecution Rate in SF Remains Largely the Same Under Boudin
According to the new dashboards, Boudin's overall prosecution rate mirrors that of his predecessor, now current Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. Out of all the arrests made by the city’s police department this year, Boudin's office filed charges about 56 percent of the time, according to the office's website.
“Simply providing the charging percentage doesn’t capture the full scope of the problem,” said Brooke Jenkins, a former assistant district attorney in Boudin's office. Jenkins, who resigned last month and joined the effort to recall Boudin, spoke to the Investigative Unit shortly after the release of Boudin's new dashboards, and voiced skepticism about using the data to draw any sort of concrete conclusions about Boudin's performance.
Former SF Prosecutors Accuse DA of Making City More Dangerous
Last month, in her first on-camera interview following her resignation, Jenkins accused Boudin of making San Francisco more dangerous by lessening criminal charges for violent offenders and, at times, failing to prosecute them at all.
“The fact that killers may go free just doesn’t sit very well with me,” Jenkins told the Investigative Unit in October.
While Boudin declined to be interviewed regarding the accusations, his office flatly denied the allegations, calling them "politically motivated."
Longtime prosecutor Don du Bain, who also resigned from the District Attorney's Office last month, joined Jenkins in voicing doubt over the possibility of gaining any legitimate insight from the newly released data.
He says it's not enough for the public to know whether charges were filed. He argues it's crucial to know what the exact charges were and whether those were the actual charges that remained in place when the case was ultimately resolved. Just because charges were filed in a case, he says, doesn't mean those are the charges that ultimately stick.
"There is a vast discrepancy between what a defendant is charged with versus what he ultimately pleads guilty to or was convicted of," he said. "We are undercharging cases and sometimes not charging them at all.”
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit recently reported on a man who was initially charged in San Francisco with assault with a deadly weapon, child endangerment, and several other charges as part of a domestic violence case. The District Attorney's Office, however, ultimately allowed the defendant to plead to a misdemeanor for vandalism, which also included one year of domestic violence counseling and 3 years of probation.
While Boudin's overall charging rate hasn't veered greatly from the city's rates over the past decade, his willingness to prosecute does differ when focusing on certain types of crimes. Lower-level offenses, for example, such as "disturbing the peace" and “disorderly conduct,” which can include loitering, begging, and being drunk in public, reflect a smaller charging rate in Boudin’s administration. According to the District Attorney's Office website, Boudin's staff only files new charges in those types of cases about 10 percent of the time. In the year prior to Boudin taking office, the charging rate was more than twice as high.
In a statement, Boudin said the new online features reflect his devotion to transparency.
“My office is committed to transparency and data-driven policies and these new dashboards promote increased public access to criminal justice data,” he wrote. “I commend the hard work of our data team in creating these new, straightforward dashboards to increase transparency and information access and we are proud to share them with the public.”
The announcement of the new website comes in the midst of an effort to recall Boudin. His opponents recently submitted more than 83,000 signatures to force him into a recall election next June. San Francisco's Department of Elections must still certify the signatures, but organizers handed in about 32,000 more signatures than they need to get the recall question onto the ballot.
Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents San Francisco's Marina district, said the new dashboards fall short of offering full transparency in how Boudin's office prosecutes violent crime.
“It certainly doesn’t tell the big picture," she said. “You have to provide what is happening on the back end.”
Proposed Law Would Require DA, Police Dept. to Regularly Disclose Details About Prosecutions and Arrests Involving Violent Offenders
Stefani says the public deserves to know how cases are ultimately resolved and not just how they are originally charged, which can often be totally different.
On Tuesday, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an ordinance Stefani authored, which would force the District Attorney's Office and police department to issue quarterly reports, detailing how often domestic violence offenders are arrested and prosecuted. The District Attorney's Office would also be required to note exactly what kinds of sentences are handed down for each of those cases.
In a letter sent to lawmakers last week, Boudin noted “key areas of concern” regarding “limitations of the proposed reporting requirements.”
“The requested statistics outlined in the ordinance overlook the wide array of victim services and advocacy that my office provides to survivors of domestic violence, irrespective of whether a criminal case is being pursued,” Boudin wrote. “These services include but are not limited to, assistance applying for civil protective orders, crisis support services and counseling, guidance to navigate the criminal justice system, referrals to local resources and services, support at court hearings, and a wide variety of both short term and ongoing support.”
The San Francisco Police Department voiced support for the legislation during a committee hearing on the ordinance last week.
Stefani tells the Investigative Unit she's confident her legislation will pass.
"I know I have the six votes," she said.
If approved, the new reporting requirements would go into effect during the first quarter of 2022.
“If you’re not explaining what is happening after the charges, you’re not getting the full picture of what is happening," Stefani said. "It certainly doesn't tell the full story."
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Watch Our Entire Investigative Series
- Part 1: 83,000+ Signatures Submitted to Force SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin into Recall Election
- Part 2: EXCLUSIVE: Two SF Prosecutors Quit, Join Effort to Recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin
- Part 3: Allegations from DA Chesa Boudin's Former Attorneys Go Viral, So What's Next?
- Part 4: SF Asst. District Attorney Defends Office Amid Accusations from Two Former Prosecutors
- Part 5: SF DA Chesa Boudin Could be Forced to Disclose How Often His Office Prosecutes Domestic Violence Offenders
- Part 6: San Francisco DA Boudin, Supervisor Stefani Spar Over Proposed Transparency Law
- Part 7: District Attorney Chesa Boudin Unveils New Crime Data, Critics Say It Doesn't Tell Full Story
- Part 8: SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin Officially Forced Into Recall Election Next June