Public safety adrift - Page 8

At this pivotal moment for law enforcement, will Newsom and his top deputies continue to let politics guide policy?
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Illustration by Jason Crosby

So if you are going to try and take away our tools — including referring youth to ICE on booking — then we will fight and keep on doing it."

While that attitude is understandable from the strictly law and order perspective, is this the public safety policy San Francisco residents really want? And is it a decision based on sound policy and principles, or merely political expediency?

Sup. David Campos, who arrived in this country at age 14 as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, says he is trying to get his arms around the city's public safety strategy. "For me, the most immediate issue is the traffic stops in some of the neighborhoods, especially in the Mission and the Tenderloin," said Campos, a member of the Public Safety Committee whose next priority is revisiting the Sanctuary City Ordinance. "I'm hopeful the Mayor's Office will reconsider its position. But if not, I'm looking at what avenues the board can pursue.

"I understand there was a horrible and tragic incident," Campos added, referring to the June 22, 2008 slaying of three members of the Bologna family, for which Edwin Ramos, who had cycled in and out of the city's juvenile justice system and is an alleged member of the notoriously violent MS-13 gang, charged with murder for shooting with an AK-47 assault weapon. "But I think it is bad to make public policy based on one incident like that. To me, the focus should be, how do we get violent crime down and how do we deal with homicides?"

Campos believes Ryan has sidetracked the administration with conservative hot-button issues like giving municipal ID cards to undocumented residents, installing more crime cameras, and cracking down on the cannabis clubs. "I'm trying to understand the role of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice," Campos said, raising the possibility that it might be eliminated as part of current efforts to close a large budget deficit. "In tough times, can we afford to have them?"

The change in Washington could also counter San Francisco's move to the right. Federal authorities, swamped by claims of economic fraud and Ponzi schemes, might lose interest in punishing San Francisco for its Sanctuary City-related activities now that President Barack Obama has vowed to address immigration reform, saying he wants to help "12 million people step out of the shadows."

"It's hard to believe that there isn't going to be some kind of change," another criminal justice community source told us. "A lot of this is Joe Russoniello's thing. Sanctuary City ordinances and policies have been a target of his for years."

Rumors swirled last week that Russoniello might have already received his marching orders when Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her judicial nomination committees, which make recommendations to Obama for U.S. District Court judges, attorneys, and marshals.
Boxer will likely be responsible for any vacancies in the northern and southern districts, while Feinstein, who is socially friendly with the Russoniello family, will take charge of the central and eastern districts. Criminal justice noted that Arguedas, who San Francisco hired to defend itself against Russoniello's grand jury investigation, is on Boxer's Northern District nomination committee.
Boxer spokesperson Natalie Ravitz told the Guardian she was not going to comment on the protocol or process for handling a possible vacancy. "What I can tell you is that Sen. Boxer is accepting applications for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District (San Diego), a position that is considered vacant," Ravitz told us. "Sen. Feinstein is handling the vacancy for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. Beyond that I am not going to comment.