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Long before San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan named Murlene Randle his 6th chief assistant district attorney Monday, they had another connection of sorts: Randle says she grew up in a town on the Mississippi Delta where Hallinan demonstrated as a civil rights activist in the 1960s. “It seems like our paths crossed long before we knew each other,” said Randle, who added that she is the first African-American ever to hold the office’s No. 2 post. At the same time Hallinan promoted Randle, the DA demoted former Chief ADA Paul Cummins to Randle’s old job as head of the office’s criminal division, the No. 3 spot. Hallinan said he was trying to put a “positive spin” on the situation. “It’s not that Paul failed, it’s that I want to give Murlene this opportunity,” he said. He had been thinking about the change for a while, and time is running out, remarked Hallinan, who is up for re-election in November. He denied that the change had anything to do with diverging opinions on how to handle a recent high-profile case against San Francisco police officers, as the San Francisco Chronicle hinted Tuesday. “I didn’t even know we had a disagreement,” said Hallinan. “That isn’t what it’s about.” In addition to swapping titles, Cummins and Randle will also swap annual salaries, said Teresa Serata, the DA’s chief financial officer. Cummins will take a slight pay cut, from $169,232 to $164,632, while Randle will get a raise. Hallinan credited Cummins with “bringing the office together and settling it down.” Cummins’ predecessor, Darrell Salomon, was the fourth to resign from the post under Hallinan. But Randle is “more into how to handle individual cases, and Paul is more into how to handle the office,” Hallinan said. “I think she has a more supervisory outlook” dealing with cases. “I just get along very well with her. I respect her opinion,” Hallinan said. Both Randle and Cummins declined to comment on the reasons for the change. Randle started her legal career in the DA’s misdemeanor division nearly 21 years ago. She worked in the preliminary hearings and domestic violence units, eventually leading the sexual assault and homicide units, and finally the criminal division, she said. Cummins is returning to the post, head of the criminal division, that he had filled from 1996 until he was promoted to be second-in-command in September 2000, according to his office. He began working for the San Francisco DA 32 years ago and has worked in “just about every” division in the office since, he said, spending much of the time in the arson and homicide units. “I’m very thankful to Terence for allowing me to be the chief assistant for three years,” Cummins said. “I wish Murlene all success.” “I’m really taking the high road,” he said. While Randle said there may be as-yet unnamed policy changes in store from her position, Cummins said he doesn’t plan any. He may look forward to trying some cases again, he said.

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