Chesa Boudin was swept into the office of the San Francisco district attorney in 2019 on promises of “decarceration,” eliminating cash bail, and refusing to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with raids, detainments, or arrests. But his brief tenure implementing this radical agenda may portend the fate of other so-called “reform-minded” prosecutors like Dallas County’s own district attorney, John Creuzot.
Local DAs have enormous power because they have prosecutorial discretion over what crimes are charged and prioritized, allowing the ability to sidestep the legislative process when implementing “decarceral” policies.
Boudin’s campaign agenda for the chief prosecutor’s office of the 17th largest U.S. city met fierce resistance from local law enforcement, who spent nearly $650,000 through the San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) to stop him.
At the time, SFPOA President Tony Montoya said, “When we examined Chesa Boudin’s dangerous policy proposals and how those policies would make neighborhood safety worse, we felt a duty to make sure voters heard the truth. That is why we have engaged in our fact-based education effort with voters.”
While Creuzot may not have made as many waves as Boudin on the campaign trail, in his first 90 days in office, he announced a slew of major policy changes to include refusing to prosecute first-time misdemeanor marijuana offenses and theft of items valued at under $750.
After Creuzot won the election and released his plans, Sgt. Todd Harrison, then-president of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT), remarked, “When he was campaigning for the office, we don’t remember ‘not prosecuting crime’ as part of his platform.”
In San Francisco, Boudin emerged from the city’s ranked-choice election as the narrow victor. Three elimination rounds yielded a 50.8% victory for Boudin.
Like Creuzot, Boudin went to work instituting significant changes to how the district attorney’s office prosecuted crime.
One of the first moves by Boudin was seen as a direct assault against police when he pulled the charges against Jamaica Hampton, a man who was shot and seriously injured by police in an altercation in which Hampton struck two officers with a liquor bottle.
SFPOA said Boudin’s move was “giving criminals a green light” to attack officers. Boudin later relented and filed charges against Hampton more than a year later.
Boudin also quickly eliminated San Francisco’s “cash bail system,” whereby a defendant accused of a crime makes a monetary deposit required by the court to secure their temporary release. Boudin replaced cash bail with a so-called “risk-based system” in which prosecutors evaluate whether a defendant threatens public safety as the primary condition for their temporary release.
SFPOA President Tony Montoya condemned the move, claiming that this would create a “criminal justice revolving door” in which police would catch a criminal for a crime, Boudin would release them, and the police would afterward catch the same criminal committing another crime.
Creuzot’s approach has been similarly condemned.
In a recent opinion piece, Stephen Moitz of Keep Dallas Safe wrote that “Creuzot must end his radical ‘catch and release’ policy that has allowed criminals caught by the police to be released without prosecution, only to commit more crime the next day.”
This is when “they are not fleecing Dallas residents for more than $750, that is!” Moitz clarified.
Moitz was referring to Creuzot’s stated policy of not prosecuting theft of less than $750 if the prosecutor’s office has deemed the crime to be committed out of “necessity.”
Within a few short years, San Francisco became mired in a crime wave, in which car burglaries, car theft, and murders saw massive increases over their historic norms.
SFPD blamed the incredible 46% surge in burglaries on chronic offenders, in part due to the “revolving door” of Boudin’s catch-and-release bail policies.
A backlash soon formed over the San Francisco crime wave, and a recall effort against Boudin began a little over a year into his four-year term.
After securing enough signatures to force a recall election, a majority of voters ended Boudin’s time in office early on June 7, 2022.
Richie Greenberg, credited with beginning the recall effort, wrote after the successful removal of Boudin, “The voters of San Francisco have united, across the spectrum — left, center, right, and independents. We have come together to send a resounding ‘NO!’ to Boudin’s absurd rhetoric and excuses.”
The question here locally with November elections around the corner is whether Dallas residents will unite across the political spectrum to make a change in the county’s chief prosecutor’s office, or grant Creuzot and his policies another four-year term.