As District Attorney, Chesa Boudin will take a multi-faceted approach to reducing the gun violence that continues to plague San Francisco’s black and brown communities. Specifically, Boudin will combine rigorous enforcement of existing gun laws with community partnerships, and gun buy backs to address gun violence from a public health perspective, and to prevent gun violence before it happens. Boudin will create partnerships with CBOs, pastors, social workers and SFPD to implement policies with proven success in other cities.
While the media has understandably focused on the fear and horror of our country’s epidemic of mass shootings, it remains true that the majority of gun deaths in our country, and in San Francisco in particular, are due to episodic gun violence in economically disadvantaged communities which strikes down many young black and brown men as they are beginning their adult lives. This everyday toll of violence destabilizes a community’s sense of safety and impairs economic development.
We must not allow gun violence to become normalized in our communities of color. We cannot accept the premature deaths of young people of color as an inevitable consequence of poverty. Compassion for the survivors of gun violence and desire to heal the trauma of gun violence, as we have witnessed repeatedly on television for victims of mass shootings, must extend to the black community.
The Centers for Disease Control categorizes violence as a “serious public health problem” because many more people (particularly children) witness and survive violence and “go on to suffer physical, mental and or emotional problems throughout the rest of their lives.” https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/riskprotectivefactors.html
This trauma permeates a child’s psyche; it negatively affects academic concentration (hyperactivity) and performance; decreases sociability, and may lead to involvement with drugs or alcohol and impulsive, aggressive behavior. Thus, a multiplicity of risk factors and harmful outcomes demand a nuanced, multi-layered approach, one that will succeed with the full support of community organizations, social workers, the schools and the police department.
Boudin worked as a public defender for many years and saw some of his clients lose their lives to gun violence and also represented young men who used a gun to defend themselves against danger both real and perceived. From talking with these young men and their families he witnesses their fear and desperation.
Recognizing the need for all San Franciscans to feel safe where they live and go to school, Boudin will work to build coalitions aiming to protect all our residents, especially our youngsters who are the most vulnerable.
Despite recent dramatic decreases in gun violence, stark racial disparities in gun homicide rates persist. Black residents are still 10 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than others are.
A Guardian investigation of San Francisco homicide data showed that violent crime has sunk to historic lows in the last five years. (Down from 100 in 2007.) In 2018, San Francisco had 46 homicides, the lowest level in a decade. Shooting deaths were down 41 percent last year, and non-fatal shootings were down 28 percent.
As of June 30, 2019, there were 20 homicides in San Francisco, just over three per month on average. While this is still unacceptable, if this pattern holds, the city's homicide rate for 2019 could come in below the 44 killings in 1963 (lowest on record.) Everyone needs to be invested in this downward trend and Boudin will work to further it. The dramatic drop came as criminal justice reforms in California reduced the number of people incarcerated in state prisons and local jails. And it came as cities invested millions of dollars in public health approaches to gun violence prevention. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2019/jun/03/gun-violence-bay-area-drop-30-percent-why-investigation
Despite the year over year decreases in gun violence, death due to gun violence remains disproportionately borne by young men of color, and many residents say they still don’t feel safe.
Yet, over-policing communities of color and mandating incarceration for young people has not proven to increase public safety. The aggressive zero-tolerance policies used to lock up thousands of people, mostly for drug crimes, never succeeded in creating a safer city, and guns still proliferated on our streets.
CALIFORNIA’S GUN LAWS MUST BE ENFORCED:
I will vigorously enforce California’s gun laws (the strictest in the country) at the same that we must invest in a community-driven policing strategy known as Ceasefire, as well as other intensive support programs that do not involve law enforcement. A Ceasefire program combined with investment in local prevention strategies will continue to drive down gun homicides.
“Ceasefire” is a focused deterrence strategy and successful violence intervention initiative credited with contributing to Oakland’s decline in gun homicide rates. The police officer in charge, Ersie Joyner, no longer believes that the police can successfully address violent crime on their own. Instead, he has come to see the limits of law enforcement, strong-arm tactics and the importance of the community’s role in breaking cycles of violence.
See, The Guardian’s interview with Captain Ersie Joyner; and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, policy paper examining Oakland’s gun violence decrease called A Case Study in Hope.
At the heart of Boudin’s strategy to reduce gun violence would be using data, dollars, and coordinated community leadership, including leadership from formerly incarcerated residents.
As District Attorney, Chesa Boudin will implement these reforms:
Partner with SFPD and well-established San Francisco businesses to Invest in, incentivize and expand Gun Buy-Backs, with financial and job-training rewards;
- The initial funding for a gun buy-back program will come from traditional sources, but the plan will further incentivize gun surrenders by also offering job training for those who are interested, culminating in union mentorship programs. We saw the success of this approach with the Chase Center construction project, which allowed dozens of at-risk youth to become certified in various trades and gain union membership and jobs. We need to have more programs like this more often. Additionally, Boudin will create partnerships to provide support for people who want to go back to school or who want help transferring from a community college to a four-year school. These additional incentives, beyond just the $200.00 in cash, adds a dimension to the gun buy-back that will generate business and union investment in our youth.
- Work with the San Francisco Police Department to Implement Policies With Proven Success in Other Cities, such as the Ceasefire programs in Oakland and Boston;
- Ceasefire programs must be implemented with police department cooperation. And they have been proven to be highly effective. Police officers committed to creating safety in communities of color take a wholistic, non-punitive approach to removing guns and develop trusting relationships with at risk youth to prevent violence before it erupts. This is not easy. It requires work, training and educating police officers who are willing to buy in to a new strategy that moves away from stop and frisk, detentions without probable cause and unreasonable searches;
- The SFPD has a sufficiently funded and staffed police force to accomplish this policy. This would not require hiring more officers, but it would require hiring trainers and scheduling multiple symposiums for training the officers.
Develop structured programs in cooperation with community pastors, community-based organizations, social workers and schools to proactively address childhood trauma due to exposure to violence, which often leads to youth arming themselves;
Some of these programs are already in place, but there is little coordination between the CBOs as to how to triage the treatment of children exposed to violence. Boudin’s plan will:
- Create safety zones in schools, (in coordination with SFUSD) staffed by social workers and formerly incarcerated people, not police officers;
- Bring formerly incarcerated people into middle schools and high schools to work with at risk youth;
- Build additional youth centers near middle schools so that youngsters have a place to go after school to play, develop programming skills, or to do homework; we have the money in San Francisco to do this, we need to develop the political will.
- Some of these programs are already in place, but there is little coordination between the CBOs as to how to triage the treatment of children exposed to violence. Boudin’s plan will:
Work with the San Francisco Police Department to implement trainings to eradicate unreasonable stop and frisk policing of black youth, to educate police about the intersectionality of implicit color bias and unconscious disrespect in street interactions, and rejuvenate Midnight Basketball in economically struggling neighborhoods.
- SFPD already has mandatory implicit bias training, but it is limited. And, despite these new trainings, we know that some police continue to treat people in ways that exacerbate the historic mistrust between police and young men of color.
- This is an issue that can be addressed with better, more thorough training on what the long-term impact of these daily interactions have on police-community relations. The handful of officers who treat black and brown kids with compassion does not outweigh their daily interactions with police who are disrespectful and who disregard their civil rights.
Enforce California’s strict gun control laws, I will make sure that youth who are arrested carrying guns, in addition to facing penal consequences, will have the opportunity to erase permanently those convictions through a structured, monitored program that treats with compassion their perception of the need to have a gun.
- Many of our youth who are caught carrying guns, have done nothing with the gun, other than to put it in a backpack or a car. They are not carrying guns to be cool; they are carrying guns to feel safe. As district attorney, Boudin will work with CBOs, social workers and the schools to address the etiology of fear, which causes them to arm themselves despite knowing the penal consequences.
In speaking with community activists Boudin has learned that intervention, outreach and neighborhood empowerment, increase the peace through building a stronger community.
Longtime community outreach workers and violence interrupters, many of whom were formerly incarcerated, are crucial to making these public health strategies effective, according to experts surveyed by the Giffords Law Center. Youngsters who end up going to jail for carrying a gun are, 9 times out of 10, carrying that gun for defensive purposes. We have to address this.
In the end, it will take all of us advocating for sensible gun violence prevention to increase the peace in our communities. As district attorney Boudin will, within 12 months, have developed partnerships with CBOs to address youth trauma from witnessing violence; within 18 months have a Ceasefire program in place, and will have deployed specially trained district attorneys to work with police in impacted neighborhoods. Boudin looks forward to all community stakeholders working together to increase the peace for every citizen of San Francisco, to helping our youth thrive and live without fear.