SAN FRANCISCO — Former Police Commissioner John Hamasaki is one of the candidates challenging San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in the upcoming election.
Hamasaki recently won the first-choice endorsement of the city’s Democratic Party. Second choice went to civil rights attorney Joe Alioto Veronese.
The November election will use the ranked-choice system, in which voters list their preferred candidates in order.
Jenkins, who is regarded as a moderate, was appointed in July by Mayor London Breed after helping to lead a recall campaign against District Attorney Chesa Boudin, her former boss. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Hamasaki is courting the votes of the city’s progressives, including those who supported Boudin.
Boudin’s critics argued that he was too soft on crime. Similar allegations have been made against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon — a former San Francisco D.A. — but efforts to recall him were unsuccessful.
A statement from Breed’s office about the Democratic County Central Committee’s endorsement of Hamasaki suggested that it was out of touch with residents.
“The mayor is listening to everyday San Franciscans, not just a handful of political insiders, and people want what Brooke is delivering,” said Jeff Cretan, a spokesperson for Breed.
Hamasaki’s campaign website provides the following profile: “Former Police Commissioner John Hamasaki is running for district attorney to make San Francisco safer in every neighborhood. And to make our city safer he will hold everyone accountable — from major drug dealers selling fentanyl in the Tenderloin to those selling influence in city government.
“John came to San Francisco (from Miami) because he saw it as a beacon of safety and justice. As a young adult he was the victim of anti-Asian violence — and he saw San Francisco the way so many of us still do — as a city of hope, safety and justice.
“As our district attorney he will fight violence and injustice. He will be a completely independent district attorney free to fight for what’s right — because he will be ‘appointed’ only by you.
“John believes the District Attorney’s Office should be separated from day-to-day politics — because justice must be above politics. This is not about moderate versus progressive. This race is about right and wrong — starting with the fundamental question, what is the right way to make us all safer?
“One of the key reasons why John knows we need an independent district attorney is that San Francisco is safer when city government works better. In recent years we have seen ongoing corruption scandals in key departments — and that means the city isn’t working as hard as it should to house the homeless, clean up our streets, and deliver the kind of basic services that help make our city secure. An independent district attorney matters — because that sends the message that public servants are hired to do the people’s business — not to pursue political advantage or financial gain.
“John served as a San Francisco police commissioner, where he fought to make sure our police department met the highest standards San Francisco deserves (and officers want). He was past president of the Asian American Bar Association, where he took on the challenge of anti-Asian violence, working to bring all communities together to address crime in every corner of San Francisco.
“As an attorney, he has represented victims of violence — and he understands the pain of victims. That’s just one of the reasons why he believes the district attorney must take a preventative approach to violence — intervening early to prevent crimes rather than simply waiting to prosecute crimes that could have been prevented with smart programs like keeping young people in school, job training, mental health treatment and other proven ways to reduce crime.
“John believes strongly that San Francisco needs an independent district attorney, standing up to the powerful and fighting for the people. He says to those hurting our residents or abusing the public trust, there will be consequences, including jail. No one is above the law.”
According to his Linked In profile: “John Hamasaki has nearly a decade of experience in the courtroom, earning him a reputation as one of the Bay Area’s most tenacious and effective criminal defense attorneys.
“After earning his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, he worked as a trial attorney for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. Soon after, he opened Hamasaki Law, a top-rated criminal defense law firm that represents individuals under investigation or facing criminal prosecution in California state and federal courts. Hamasaki Law takes on the toughest cases and achieves the best possible results for its clients. From state financial, narcotics and homicide matters to federal computer crimes prosecutions, Hamasaki Law gives every client and every case individual attention.
“The firm recognizes that even minor matters can have significant consequences for its clients’ families and careers, so whether fighting a first-time DUI or facing a potential life sentence, Hamasaki Law will exhaust every avenue to defend its clients’ rights.
“Hamasaki Law represents individuals throughout Northern California, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma (counties).”
A frequent critic of the SFPD, Hamasaki was appointed to the Police Commission by the Board of Supervisors in 2018 and resigned last March.
“I would push hard on reform measures, but I didn’t feel supported by other commissioners or city officials,” he said at the time. “I think it’s trying to push that boulder uphill, and finding yourself alone too many times. I feel good after the work gets done, but getting the work done is just so much work.
“My term on the Police Commission is up next month. I will not be renewing. While I believe that we have done some good work, we have failed at changing the culture.”
Hamasaki’s endorsers include former State Sen. Mark Leno, former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, former Board of Supervisors Presidents Norman Yee and Matt Gonzalez, Supervisors Dean Preston and Sandra Lee Fewer, former Supervisor John Avalos, former Police Commissioners Angela Chan and Petra De Jesus, Board of Education candidate Alida Fisher, College Board candidate Susan Solomon, retired San Francisco Superior Court Judges Ellen Chaitin, Julie Tang and Lillian Sing, and retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Martha Goldin.
Organizational endorsers include Harvey Milk Democratic Club, San Francisco Young Democrats, S.F. Latinx Democratic Club, Rose Pak Democratic Club, S.F. League of Pissed Off Voters, S.F. Berniecrats, San Francisco Green Party, United Educators S.F. and The San Francisco Bay Guardian.