By James R. Bozajian
It has been said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. And so it was with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, as he was overwhelmingly and unceremoniously tossed from office courtesy of a recall election held on June 7th.
Campaigning on a platform calling for “criminal justice reform,” Boudin was elected to the position of District Attorney in 2019. While many of his so-called reforms were doomed from the outset, others might have succeeded had they been implemented thoughtfully, incrementally, and moderately. But instead, Boudin attempted to tear down the entire criminal justice system immediately upon taking office, seemingly unconcerned about the adverse consequences of his behavior.
Two years later, confronted with a soaring crime rate and a plummeting quality of life, San Francisco voters successfully petitioned to conduct a special recall election of Boudin. The recall was held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled 2022 California Primary.
Boudin spent much of the recall campaign making highly unpersuasive pitches to an electorate weary of his criminal-friendly policies. He claimed, for instance, that the recall movement was a conspiracy spearheaded by Republicans and Donald Trump partisans. But registered Republicans make up a scant 6.73% of the electorate in San Francisco, and Trump scored an underwhelming 12.7% of the vote there in 2020 — which was actually an improvement on the 9.3% he got in 2016.
Clearly, Boudin did not get removed because of a conservative plot in San Francisco. He lost because a broad and diverse coalition of the public, spanning across the political spectrum, decided that enough was enough. Since Boudin’s soft-on-crime tenure began, San Francisco (where uniquely, the consolidated city and county governments are one and the same) has descended into lawlessness. By every possible measure — public safety, economics, and even aesthetics — the city is a complete mess. In 2021, San Francisco suffered the worst depopulation of any major municipality in the United States, losing an estimated 6.3% of its residents in a single year. And while surging crime is not the only reason for this exodus, it is certainly a heavily contributing factor.
San Francisco’s experience might sound eerily familiar to those of us living here in Los Angeles County, because we are now confronted with a very similar situation. The destructive policies of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón are essentially the mirror image of what San Francisco just discarded.
What happened on Election Day symbolizes just how politically toxic the whole “defund the police” movement has become. If San Francisco — by some measures the most liberal county in the nation — could so decisively rid itself of a District Attorney who openly flouted his disdain for public safety, then the signs are ominous indeed for George Gascón. It is only a matter of time.
James R. Bozajian has served as a Calabasas City Councilmember/Mayor since 1997. He was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney from 1990 to 2014, and is an ADDA Past President. James can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.