Senate passes four major bills cosponsored by SF DA Chesa Boudin

AB 127 holds police accountable; SB 739 provides basic income to youth aging out of foster care; SB 299 and SB 710 expand police victims’ rights, support police accountability and promote fairness in the criminal justice system

by Rachel Marshall

On March 2, 2021, Kamlager was elected to the California State Senate with 67.67 percent of the vote. She is picking up the torch of her predecessor, Sen. Holly Mitchell, whose record on correcting oppression by police and prisons is unparalleled. Both Kamlager and San Francisco DA Boudin are committed to transforming the criminal justice system. – Photo: Wikipedia

AB 127

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced June 10 that the California State Senate has passed AB 127, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. Boudin cosponsored AB 127, which was authored by Sen. Sydney Kamlager, and testified on its behalf earlier this week. The bill would remove obstacles to prosecutors holding police accountable and is one of a slate of bills before the state Legislature that District Attorney Boudin has cosponsored this year.

“I am thrilled that the Senate has passed AB 127 to reduce barriers to holding police accountable by allowing prosecutors to seek an arrest warrant even when other law enforcement officers are unwilling to assist in the prosecution of a fellow officer,” said District Attorney Boudin. “As the horrific murder of George Floyd reminds us, now, more than ever, we must find ways to ensure accountability for law enforcement officers who break the trust we place in them. As a proud cosponsor of AB 127, I thank Sen. Kamlager for authoring it and urge Gov. Newsom to sign this important bill into law.”

“I’m immensely grateful and excited to see AB 127 pass out of the Legislature this morning. We cannot allow police officers who’ve continually victimized Californians to evade accountability by hiding behind procedural barriers or capitalizing off their fellow officers’ unwillingness to speak out. With the Senate passing AB 127 today, this bill is headed to the governor’s desk and we’re a step closer to forging a path of police accountability in this state,” said Sen. Kamlager. “I thank my legislative colleagues as well as San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin for recognizing the bureaucratic hurdles that have been used to shield law enforcement and urge Gov. Newsom to sign AB 127 into law.”

One obstacle to prosecution of police officers is the frequent unwillingness of law enforcement officers to assist in the prosecution of one of their own. This can lead to law enforcement officers refusing to provide the necessary information to support an arrest warrant. AB 127 would make it easier to secure arrest warrants against officers who break the law. The bill would expand who can attest to probable cause for arrest when the subject of that arrest is a peace officer. This will remove a common barrier to police prosecutions.

One obstacle to prosecution of police officers is the frequent unwillingness of law enforcement officers to assist in the prosecution of one of their own. AB 127 would make it easier to secure arrest warrants against officers who break the law.

Since taking office in 2020, Boudin has enacted numerous measures to ensure police are held accountable for criminal acts, just like any other person in San Francisco. He also restructured the District Attorney’s Office’s Independent Investigation Bureau (IIB), which has now filed charges against five law enforcement officers in connection with four different incidents.

Experts in police accountability praised the Legislature’s passage of AB 127 and Boudin’s role in supporting it. “We must work to reduce the many barriers – including longstanding resistance from law enforcement – to holding police accountable. I commend District Attorney Boudin for advocating for important policy changes like this one that enable other prosecutors to join him in filing charges when officers break the law,” said longtime police reform advocate and retired ACLU police practices expert John Crew.

“AB 127 would play an important role in making it easier to hold accountable police who abuse our trust and engage in criminal conduct. I thank District Attorney Boudin for cosponsoring AB 127 along with Sen. Kamlager for her authorship, and I hope the governor quickly signs it into law. “

SB 739

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin heralds the California State Senate’s passage on June 8 of Senate Bill 739, which supports universal basic income for youth aging out of the foster system. District Attorney Boudin cosponsored SB 739, which was authored by Sen. Dave Cortese. Boudin’s advocacy for SB 739 builds on the District Attorney’s Office’s development of new, innovative approaches to assist vulnerable young people.

SB 739 would provide direct monthly cash assistance through a statewide universal basic income (UBI) pilot program to support the approximately 2,500 youth who age out of extended foster care in California each year. Youth who age out of the foster care system lack parental or other familial support. As a result, many are unable to attend or graduate from college or trade school; many are forced into homelessness; and far too many become involved in the criminal legal system, either as victims made vulnerable by living on the streets or as people who commit crimes of survival.

“Transitional age youth without familial support far too often end up victimized or arrested and incarcerated for committing crimes to support themselves,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “I am proud to cosponsor Sen. Cortese’s SB 739 to pilot a program that would close that gap for those who age out of foster care this year. This pilot program will show that those youth who get support will build a foundation for future health and success. These and other basic income programs will prove to be an excellent – and ultimately more cost-effective – use of government resources and will help to make our communities safer.”

“Santa Clara County’s Universal Basic Income for young adults exiting the foster care system was a groundbreaking program and we are grateful to Sen. Cortese and District Attorney Boudin for their continued leadership on behalf of young people,” said Larkin Street Youth Services Executive Director Sherilyn Adams. “By scaling this program statewide, SB 739 expands the pilot’s solution space, ensuring this critical resource is available to at least 2,500 former foster youth across California.

“We know that early intervention is paramount to supporting youth exiting the foster care system and ultimately critical for all youth experiencing homelessness. We test and scale creative solutions that give young people the resources they need to remain stably housed and achieve their goals, and we will make tangible progress in solving homelessness, not only for transitional age youth, but across all demographics.”

Earlier this week, District Attorney Boudin visited Larkin Street Youth Services’ facility and met with Executive Director Sherilyn Adams and other staff members. Larkin Street Youth Services is a nonprofit that empowers young people to move beyond homelessness. Since its founding in 1984, it has assisted over 75,000 young adults in San Francisco by providing a continuum of housing, healthcare, employment and education services. Boudin toured the Larkin Street facility and spoke about his advocacy to support youth.

“Transitional age youth without familial support far too often end up victimized or arrested and incarcerated for committing crimes to support themselves,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Since September of 2020, the District Attorney’s Office, the Superior Court, the Probation Department and other justice partners have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Larkin Street Youth Services as part of the Young Adult Court (YAC) program. YAC is a specialty court in San Francisco for young people ages 18-24 who have been charged with a criminal case. YAC partners work to support them into successfully transitioning into adulthood and to provide the support and services necessary to disrupt the cycles of incarceration and poverty. The program works to reduce recidivism by helping to address the root causes of crimes committed by young people to prevent future offenses.

As part of the MOU, Larkin Street provides safe and supportive housing to youth referred by Young Adult Court; provides case management, housing navigation and referrals; and participates in collaborative case conferences to support young people in the program.

“It is critical that we provide justice-involved youth with the support they need as they enter adulthood, and our partnership with Larkin Street Services is a key component of that effort,” said Assistant District Attorney Azita Ghafourpour, who represents the District Attorney’s Office in Young Adult Court. “Supporting justice-involved youth is not only the right thing to do, but it protects public safety as it reduces the chance of recidivism.”

The District Attorney’s Office also entered into an MOU to support a diversion program for unaccompanied children who are the victims of human trafficking and who have been arrested for drug-related offenses. The MOU, signed in March of 2021 by the District Attorney’s Office, the University of San Francisco Law School Immigration Clinic, the Public Defender’s Office and the Bar Association of San Francisco, helps divert youth at the prefiling stage out of the juvenile justice system and into a program that is tailored for the needs of children fleeing violence, poverty and trauma in Central America. The program provides case management and therapeutic services to connect unaccompanied children to school and employment. The District Attorney’s Office has the sole discretion to determine which cases are referred to UCAP.

“There is perhaps no more vulnerable group than children who are alone and have escaped dangerous conditions before coming here,” said USF Law Professor Bill Ong Hing. “I commend DA Boudin for partnering with the USF Immigration Clinic to ensure that these children are not simply mindlessly funneled into the criminal justice system but are given a real chance to succeed.”

“My office will continue to develop innovative approaches to advocating for vulnerable youth, as we have been doing since I took office,” said District Attorney Boudin. “For too long the criminal justice system has ignored the unique needs of children and has failed to invest in kids. We must ensure that our most vulnerable children are given the support and services they need to flourish. Our partnerships with visionary state legislators like Sen. Cortese, non-profits such as Larkin Street, as well as with law schools like USF help us promote public safety by giving justice-involved kids the tools to succeed.”

When Chesa Boudin won election as San Francisco district attorney, the London Guardian ran a story headlined “Son of jailed radicals, reviled by the police union. Now, Chesa Boudin is San Francisco’s top cop.” So among his top legislative priorities was to end the long practice of police unions “buying” prosecutors to prevent accountability for police who brutalize and murder the people they are sworn to protect and serve. – Photo: Scott Strazzante, AP

SB 299 and SB 710

District Attorney Chesa Boudin applauded the California State Senate’s passage of two important bills on June 2: Senate Bills 299 and 710. Boudin was a cosponsor of both bills, which expand victims’ rights, support police accountability and promote fairness in the criminal justice system.

Senate Bill 299, authored by Sen. Connie Leyva, would ensure that victims of police violence are treated the same as all other victims of crime and be eligible for victim services and support. This bill would also end the requirement that crime victims provide police reports or charging documents in order to access victim services and compensation.

Last June, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office implemented an internal policy in its office to expand victim compensation to victims of police violence. District Attorney Boudin cosponsored SB 299 to expand access to victim services to police violence victims throughout the state of California.

“All crime victims and survivors in California should be eligible to receive services and care, regardless of who committed the harm against them,” said District Attorney Boudin. “We must promote healing for victims of police violence – and all victims who experience violence or trauma. I am proud to co-sponsor Senate Bill 299 to expand victims’ rights and will continue to advocate for the rights of victims in the Legislature.”

“All crime victims and survivors in California should be eligible to receive services and care, regardless of who committed the harm against them,” said District Attorney Boudin. “We must promote healing for victims of police violence – and all victims who experience violence or trauma.”

A coalition of supporters helped secure passage of SB 299 through the Senate, including District Attorney Boudin; California State Controller Betty Yee; Californians for Safety and Justice; Prosecutors Alliance of California; and Youth Alive. “In passing SB 299, the California State Senate has recognized that survivors of police aggression are indeed victims who need support and healing,” the coalition said in a statement. ‘For too long, these survivors have been revictimized by a justice system that ignored their trauma and pain. By ensuring they and their families have access to the supportive services they urgently need to heal, we can enhance health, safety and justice for all.”

SB 710, another bill cosponsored by District Attorney Boudin, also passed the Senate on June 2. Authored by Sen. Steven Bradford, SB 710 would “cure the conflict” that exists when prosecutors decide whether to prosecute law enforcement officers who are reported to have committed crimes – when those prosecutors accept campaign donations from those same officers’ law enforcement unions. Under SB 710, prosecutors – including the attorney general, county district attorneys and city prosecutors – who receive such donations would be required to recuse themselves from investigations, charging decisions and prosecutions involving law enforcement personnel.

“Prosecutors’ decisions about whether to file charges against officers must be made fairly, impartially and free from the influence of law enforcement unions,” said District Attorney Boudin. “SB 710 will help restore public trust in the integrity of our legal system by ensuring that prosecutors’ decisions are not influenced by campaign contributions, and that there is not even an appearance of bias on the part of the prosecutor making critical decisions in cases involving law enforcement.”

“Prosecutors’ decisions about whether to file charges against officers must be made fairly, impartially and free from the influence of law enforcement unions,” said District Attorney Boudin.

The Prosecutors Alliance of California, of which District Attorney Boudin was a founding member, played a key role in SB 710’s success. “Elected prosecutors who accept financial contributions from law enforcement associations cannot escape the conflict of interest that exists when they inevitably lead investigations into the members of those organizations,” said Prosecutors Alliance Executive Director Cristine DeBerry.

“Even where police act appropriately and within the confines of the law, that conflict undermines trust and casts a shadow of uncertainty over decisions not to charge officers in critical incidents. As our nation confronts systemic racism, we must break the historical ties which fundamentally undermine trust in our communities and weaken accountability for law enforcement officers who violate the law.”

Rachel Marshall is director of communications, policy adviser and assistant district attorney in the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. She can be reached by email at Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org, by mail at 350 Rhode Island Street, North Building, Suite 400N San Francisco, CA 94103, and by phone at 415-416-4468.