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This week, The Recorder is publishing excerpts from interviews with the three candidates for the Nov. 4 San Francisco district attorney election. The newspaper’s editorial board interviewed Kamala Harris, who was unaccompanied during the session, on Sept. 10. Interviews with Bill Fazio and Terence Hallinan were published Monday and Tuesday, respectively. RECORDER: Why should the voters choose you? HARRIS: Primarily because it’s time for a change. We have a situation in the criminal justice system, and in particular the DA’s office, where we are failing to serve a lot of the people who require that there be an effective and successful prosecution of serious and violent crime, in particular. We also recognize that San Francisco is facing a lot of issues that impact quality of life, that impact very vulnerable people. We need to have a district attorney who can also participate in the leadership of this city, being as the DA’s office is one of the highest elective offices in terms of city government. And in both regards there is a lot of work to be done. We have the lowest conviction rate for crime in the state � the lowest conviction rate for serious and violent crime, the lowest conviction rate for domestic violence. We are not successfully taking on and prosecuting child sexual assault cases. We are not taking on and successfully prosecuting a lot of fraud cases that are happening. � And we need leadership to successfully grow and meet the demands and the needs of San Francisco as it continues to evolve and change. But fundamentally, at its core, in order for all of that to take place, we need to have a DA’s office that is run with the recognition that it is essentially a public law office, and should be run with the priorities of a law office. Which means that the infrastructure should be grounded in professionalism, and should be run with the priority being that, and not politics. We have a district attorney’s office that has failed miserably, I think, to function as a law office � Not every lawyer in the district attorney’s office has a computer. There is no centralized data bank for briefs and legal documents, motions. There should be a very strong legal research and writing team in the San Francisco DA’s office, and that does not exist. There is no filing system in the San Francisco DA’s office, as evidenced most recently by a reporter for the Chronicle trying to figure out what happened in the Elbert Flowers case involving domestic violence. They couldn’t find the file. They had to reconstruct it. � RECORDER: What specifically sets you apart from the other candidates and enables you to do the things you’re talking about that the others cannot? HARRIS: As it relates to the incumbent, I am a career prosecutor. I have sat with the victims and talked with them about some of the most horrible experiences any human being can have. And spent many hours with them, and gained their trust, and been in their homes, and gone to crime scenes, and seen autopsies or rape kits or places where blood is. And I understand, because of those experiences, how important it is to be a prosecutor, and be a successful prosecutor, and a professional prosecutor when it comes to prosecuting serious and violent crime. Mr. Hallinan has not had that experience. And I think that has prevented him from really, truly appreciating the seriousness of the work that needs to be done by that office as it relates to serious and violent crime. � As it relates to [Fazio], he’s probably had more trials than I’ve had. He’s, you know, been around longer than I have. But I don’t think that makes the difference in whether one can lead this law office. Certainly it’s important to have the experience, but whether you’ve had 50 trials or 100 trials, when you get to that zone, I don’t think it makes a difference. What does make a difference is the ability � to participate in the leadership of the city. And be aware of what best practices exist and the needs of the communities. It is important that that person � can walk comfortably in all the communities that are impacted. I have done work with domestic violence advocacy groups. I have done work with child advocacy groups. I have done work with seniors groups. I can walk very comfortably in the Bayview, as comfortably as I do downtown, as comfortably as I do in different sectors of the city that quite frankly don’t really, necessarily see each other or speak with each other, talk with each other. And I believe it’s important that somebody who holds a position of city leadership be able to connect all those populations in a way that they see their common interests, and can then collectively participate in the solutions. And an example of that would be the work I’ve done in teenage prostitution. In the city attorney’s office, as co-chief of the community neighborhood services division, I co-founded a coalition called the Coalition to End the Exploitation of Kids, CEEK. And the work that propelled me to do that was the work I did as a prosecutor. There was a time I specialized in child sexual assault cases. And I saw that a lot of those youths who were mostly being victimized in the home, were very vulnerable, and very vulnerable to pimps in particular. Who are predators as far as I’m concerned. Mimi Silbert of Delancey Street did a study that was published by the National Institutes of Mental Health in the early 1980s, documenting that San Francisco has a problem with teenage prostitution. Nothing had really been done on a citywide basis.� So when I got to the city attorney’s office, with the power of the position and the title and the fact that the work we do there represents so many different agencies, I brought together community-based organizations such as Larkin Street and SAGE. I brought together people from community departments, such as the Department of Human Services, the police department, city agencies. Brought together Sandra Hernandez from the San Francisco Foundation, hard worker over the years and has access to a lot of project money. Brought all of these people together to deal with this problem. That was the first time ever. We created the coalition. It resulted in a task force, it resulted in the Board of Supervisors adopting recommendations for creation of a safe house in the community, which would treat these youths not as teenage prostitutes but really understand and deconstruct the issue, and reconstruct that we recognize they’re actually sexually exploited youth. � RECORDER: Can you give us figures on the number of homicide and rape trials you’ve tried in your career? HARRIS: Homicide and rape trials to verdict? Probably six or seven. Well, no, more than that, if you include child sexual assault cases. Probably 15. RECORDER: How many homicide trials? HARRIS: I’ve had four homicide trials. RECORDER: Do you recall what the outcome was? HARRIS: All of them were guilty. � And I’ve done a number of preliminary hearings � and I’ve gone out on investigations and helped out with homicide investigations. RECORDER: The guilty verdicts were murder or manslaughter? HARRIS: I believe, and I’ll check, but I believe each one of them was at least a second-degree murder. RECORDER: Going back to the technology issue, how do you create basic infrastructure for an office when the budget is so tight? HARRIS: The DA’s budget is about $33 million. One of the first things I will do is an audit of the office. We need a full-scale audit of the DA’s office. And it’s not unheard of. You know, the Orange County DA’s office, right after the [county's] bankruptcy, did an audit back in ’97, I think it was. And they brought in Pricewaterhouse[Coopers], I believe. � I know, based on my experience inside that office, it is deeply damaged, and we need really that kind of forensic analysis of all of the issues that impact the infrastructure of the office. And the best way to do that would be to bring an independent body who has the ability and the expertise to do that kind of assessment, and then work from there. I think once that is done and there is publication of that, no one could challenge my request for more resources, right? � Also, a lot of prosecution is grant-funded. The trend is that almost every type of fund that you can imagine has some kind of specific and special grant funding that is either allocated or is available. And it varies often based on the priorities of the state government and the federal government. Right now we know that for some reason the Bush administration is interested in trafficking. Probably because they want to take money away from the civil rights division, but whatever. I didn’t say that [laughs]. So there’s money there. But with all grant money, it’s a matter of applying for it. It’s a matter of thinking creatively, to access these various types of pots of money, and do something. And even in lean budget times those pots of money are there, because they’re mandated often by the Legislature. And again, if you have an office that is run with a priority to professionalizing and prioritizing those types of things, that’ll happen. That money is there. You know, there are so many very, very bright people who want to join the DA’s office of San Francisco, who don’t because of its reputation. In addition to everything I’ve said, we can truly attract the best and the brightest to San Francisco, and bring them in. Or bring them back, because a lot of very bright people have left that office. � RECORDER: You mentioned quality of life. Can you give us some specifics about what you’d do differently from Hallinan? And how do you draw the difference between criminalizing homelessness and actually stopping the kind of conduct that does affect quality of life? HARRIS: I’ll say starting out — it’s a cliche, but I’ll say it because it definitely needs to be said — I don’t think being poor is a crime. I don’t think being homeless is a crime. But I do believe that whether a person is poor, or homeless, or they’re a priest or they’re a police officer, they start committing crimes, they should be prosecuted. And one of the issues that I think needs to be articulated — although it should be a given — is that we have a system that has purposely been designed to say there should be — in fact, there has to be — consequences for certain types of behavior. You know, I’m not running for public defender. � I live south of Market. I own a flat south of Market. Right around the corner from Sixth Street, which coincidentally is around the corner from the Hall of Justice, right? I see it every day, literally, when I walk out of my front door. And it’s an issue. It’s an issue when people feel they cannot enjoy their property or feel unsafe, and I think those cases have to be prosecuted. There are ways to do that, though, that when a person commits a crime and there are a lot of underlying issues. There is a way to deal with those underlying issues in a way that is compassionate. You know, we’re very fortunate to have Mike Hennessey in San Francisco, who is the sheriff and is known nationally and is recognized nationally for breaking ground in terms of what can be done in terms of rehabilitation, what can be done in terms of service. He’s got award-winning programs for anger management, and domestic violence training, and substance abuse and mental health work. And there is a way to be compassionate if someone comes into the criminal justice system if they’ve committed a crime. But it is the role of the DA to implement the consequences. And that’s not being done. We know that there were, I believe, 15,000 quality-of-life crimes that occurred in San Francisco recently, and there were about 300 that were prosecuted and one of those 300 was diverted into mental health, or to services. So it’s been a big failure. � And I think the lines have been blurred as though to be progressive and to be liberal means being soft on crime. That’s not the definition of a progressive and a liberal. RECORDER: Could you give us a little more in the way of specifics about juvenile justice or quality of life? Are there specific crimes you would prosecute that aren’t being prosecuted now, or specific programs that you would bring to bear? HARRIS: Sure. When it relates to quality of life, and in particular juvenile justice, the DA uniquely sees these cycles. There was a study done recently by the [Commission] on Status of Women, they called it the girls report. And the statistics in that study are staggering. The number of girls being incarcerated in juvenile hall is twice the number that were being incarcerated over the last 10 years. And they’re being incarcerated for much more serious crime. And then now we see this [news] story about girl gangs, and it’s predictable that that’s happened. I know from being in the city attorney’s office, as the head of children and family services — when I first joined, when Louise Renne recruited me — that we have about 2,000 youth in the foster care system in San Francisco. About 66 percent of them are African-American, despite the fact that the African-American population is 8 percent in San Francisco. And we know that the youth who are in the foster care system are the same youth who cycle into the juvenile delinquency system. Who are the same people who end up cycling into the adult criminal justice system. The DA is in a very unique position to see those cycles. And again, should be one of the loudest voices saying, “Hello, city. We need to wake up and deal with these cycles and do something in terms of resources.” That’s not been done. Furthermore, we have a DA’s office in progressive San Francisco that is operating in a very outmoded way. � It is very outmoded and the very old, traditional model of the DA’s office to decide that the homicide division of the DA’s office is the star place where everyone wants to go, that’s when you’ve really made it, and treat the juvenile division as though it’s kiddy law. Treated as though it’s Siberia. The best and the brightest attorneys should be sent to the juvenile division of the DA’s office, as far as I’m concerned. Because if you’re really going to have any long-term or wide-range impact on juvenile justice, and on crime, it’s going to be there, the juvenile justice division. And that’s not been done in San Francisco. So my priorities would be to, first of all, reconstruct the office so that every new prosecutor has to do a stint in juvenile justice, at [the Youth Guidance Center], and do it on a rotational basis. So that they can understand the long-range impact. I think it’s very important for a prosecutor to have been in the juvenile justice division and read those probation reports that talk about who these kids are and what their experiences have been. � RECORDER: We want to ask you about a specific criticism that Terence Hallinan and [his chief deputy] Murlene Randle had in their interview here. They assert that when you were in the DA’s office, you complained that the office was prosecuting domestic violence cases and homicide cases too aggressively. Specifically, Murlene Randle mentioned the “one-punch” case involving a victim who was a gay man. In essence what they were saying is that you were more concerned with ensuring a conviction than charging the case as fully as the facts and the evidence warranted. HARRIS: I think what they’re recalling are conversations that may have been had where the conversation from their perspective and from the leadership of the office’s perspective may have been more about the constituencies that were involved, rather than the evidence. My point has always been, and it will always be, I don’t care if a victim is popular and a defendant is unpopular, I don’t care what is going on in terms of that. We have to be guided by the ethical responsibility of the prosecutor to only charge a case that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, period. So if that’s the criticism, I accept that fully. I accept that fully. Yes, that is my belief, my strong belief, and I stick to it. It’s that same belief that leads me to be critical of indicting the entire command staff of the police department, knowing that the evidence is not there, allowing it to go forward, and standing before international CNN and saying the San Francisco Police Department is corrupt. And then turning around and having the charges thrown out, either by the DA or by the court. And in the process allowing the entire public to believe that the San Francisco Police Department is corrupt. When a case is there and the evidence is there to prove it, the case should be charged, and it should be done. And it should not be done for the benefit of television cameras. RECORDER: Hallinan’s position when we interviewed him was that once the grand jury had decided that it wanted to hand down those indictments, he no longer had any control — it was up to the courts. HARRIS: That’s incorrect. It’s just simply incorrect. A grand jury can return an indictment; it absolutely has the power to do that. The DA has the power to basically edit down whatever the findings were, if the DA going forward believes the evidence was not there to prove it. It is incumbent on the DA. And certainly in a case of that seriousness, and of that conduct being so very serious, certainly the DA should have reviewed the evidence before standing before television cameras, making the types of statements that were made. He did not do that. Let’s just look at the facts — what most recently happened to the three [off-duty] police officers. He decided that he was going to not go forward with the indictment of the three off-duty police officers, and instead charge the case according to the evidence that he believes he has, according to his interpretation. But he didn’t do that with the [command staff]. So it’s just internally inconsistent, what he’s saying. RECORDER: Bill Fazio said what he’d have done is gone in and seen the chief of police, said I’m taking over this case early on. Terence Hallinan said he couldn’t do that, he tried to have a conversation, it got him into trouble, and the DA’s investigators can’t do those types of investigations. Can you give us your sense of what you would have done in that situation? HARRIS: I believe the evidence was there [to charge the off-duty officers], the reports were there, and nothing substantially changed. The witnesses’ statements were there. And it was on the basis of the witnesses’ statements that the indictment was eventually returned. So if the evidence was there to go forward for the grand jury with that, the evidence was there for the DA to proceed. Because I believe he received all those reports, those witness statements. And so the case should have been charged. � RECORDER: So what do you do when the investigation gets to the point where the DA is getting resistance from the police department about turning over reports or allowing the DA’s office to interview officers that responded to the scene? HARRIS: Then you subpoena those officers. You subpoena those officers. There’s a part of the DA’s office, a resource that he’s not maximized, which is DA investigators. Most of them carry badges, they carry guns, they’ve gone to the police academy. And they should more actively participate in the investigation of crime, the gathering of statements and the gathering of evidence. And they don’t do that, for the most part. If you recall a year ago, Hallinan said, well, he doesn’t have resources, so he just has his investigators issue subpoenas, and that’s all they do. They don’t participate in the gathering of evidence and working a case up. That’s ridiculous. You look at Alameda County, you look at Santa Clara County, all these counties, those units of the DA’s offices actively participate in investigating these cases. So in terms of where does the authority come from [if the police are resisting], of course he goes immediately to the top of the police department. And if he’s saying the chief of police was refusing to give him that evidence � then he’s going to go to an outside body. And the courts — if you believe it’s there, get a search warrant. Bring in a state or a federal agency. The U.S. attorney’s office is here. The attorney general’s office is here. Bring them in. RECORDER: The DA and the police department have long butted heads � HARRIS: In the last eight years. RECORDER: The other candidate [Fazio] talks about having a more cooperative relationship with the police department. How do you envision that relationship? HARRIS: Essentially the DA is the chief law enforcement officer, and as such should be responsible for being a leader in terms of what all law enforcement does. I believe that the police department and San Francisco DA’s office at best had a hostile relationship almost eight years ago, and now have absolutely no institutional relationship. And if we’re going to successfully investigate and prosecute crime, there has to be a partnership of sorts. Which means that they have to institutionally operate in a way that there is some respect. And that doesn’t exist. And in order to change that there’s going to have to be new leadership in the DA’s office. [Leadership] is about doing the work that needs to be done to prosecute serious and violent crime in particular. There is a perception in the police department that that’s not happening. So that feeds some of the animosity. � There are a couple of [other] things I plan to do in particular. One of [them] is assign a DA for being responsible for reading the advance sheets every day — as every lawyer will be responsible for. But read the advance sheets, know what the courts are saying in terms of you stop a car for a broken taillight and you search the trunk — this type of search is constitutional, this type of search is not constitutional, all right? So there’s a lawyer who stands in front of a video camera for 15 minutes, summarizing those cases, saying this is what is legal, this is what isn’t legal. This is the state of the law today. And then reproduce the tape enough times to distribute it to every police station, and have them watch it during lineup on a weekly basis, right? So they know what is current. � Another thing I will do immediately: There are these motions we have called 1538 motions, which are the motions to suppress evidence. � If the judge makes the decision that the search, yes, was unconstitutional, the remedy or the punishment for that is the judge will suppress the evidence. � What I would require is the prosecutor who was in court at that time come back to my office. I’ll maintain a log. And the log will require the entry — when there’s been a finding by the court that there’s been a constitutional violation — that the name of the officer who’s responsible, involved in that case, be entered, and the nature of the constitutional violation entered. And I’ll track that. And we’re going to see one of two things, or both. We’re going to see, perhaps, repetitive conduct by the same officer, which means it’s a personnel issue. Or we’re going to see repetitive types of conduct, which means it’s a training issue. I’ll give that information to the police department. Deal with this. If you have personnel problems, I’m telling you now, I’m forewarning you, you’ve got a problem. Or this is a problem, and we need to do some training on, you know, how you search a car in a traffic stop. I firmly believe that if the public has a lack of confidence in the integrity of the police department, the public is never going to be able to do the work it needs to do as jurors, or as a community to enforce what we need to do when crime occurs. And I’ll give you an example of where the rubber meets the road. Imagine a rape case, some young DA sitting in the courtroom, he’s got a rape victim next to him, there’s a rapist in the courtroom, and he’s saying to the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, tell this rapist there are consequences for his behavior. And part of the information on which you must rely is the testimony of a San Francisco police officer.” And if that jury is sitting back with arms crossed, shaking their head, “Can’t do it. Don’t believe ‘em. They’re corrupt,” the person in that dynamic who loses out completely is that victim. It is in the best interest of everyone concerned that the public trust that the law enforcement system is just. So that means when there are bad actors, when there is misconduct, that needs to be dealt with swiftly. And we’ve not seen that. There’ve been complaints for years coming from parts of this town — from the Bayview, from the Mission, from the Castro — about concerns about police conduct. And this incumbent hasn’t taken any of those cases on. And now in a political year, you know, he takes it on with a big fury — the slasher, the slayer of corruption in the police department. But leading up to that, what has he put in place to ensure that there will be good conduct and that best practices will occur? And what has he done in terms of really showing some real dedication to this idea of making sure that the police department does good work? It’s not there. There’s a lot of good talk, but when you look at the conduct, it’s not there. RECORDER: Your opponents try very hard to tie you into Mayor Willie Brown. And the mayor has, in fact, donated $500 to your campaign, some of his friends have as well. How can you assure voters that if you’re elected you will be independent and free from the political influence of very influential people? HARRIS: First, I’ll say that as it relates to my opponents, each of them in some way or another over the course of their careers and lives have benefited from Willie Brown. � I have received contributions from a lot of people. � I have received the endorsements and been actively supported by people who have politically been characterized and defined as the enemies of Willie Brown, including Aaron Peskin, including Mark Leno. I am supported by John Keker, who has been openly critical of Willie Brown’s administration, and, in fact, was on the police commission, as president. � So I am supported by a lot of people. And each of them is supporting me, I believe, because they believe that I can get the job done. And because there is, in fact, a need for change. And none of them, individually, will be able to exert any influence or power over me as it relates to my fundamental and important duties as district attorney. So to suggest otherwise is really to just create a scare tactic, to invoke what I call a bogeyman. � You know, they talk this stuff all over town, because it’s the only thing they can talk about. And the reality is I am 38 years old. I plan on practicing until I’m 80. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to compromise my good reputation and career for anyone, and do anything that would participate in any cover-up, or any corruption, or anything of that nature. I have been in public practice my entire career. I have a reputation in my profession of being fair, and being honest, and being tough. I have built up that reputation because of the work I have done. And the only thing that I think — especially a lawyer in public practice — has, is our reputation. We’re not gauged by the amount of money we make. We’re not gauged by the clients that we have. We’re gauged by the kind of work we do on a daily basis, in courtrooms, with judges and with our colleagues. And that’s who I am and that’s who I will be for a very long time. And I would not compromise that for anything. RECORDER: Do you feel that there is political corruption [in San Francisco], political or public corruption? Is there a problem there, and would you do anything different than Terence Hallinan — a couple of prosecutions against lower level officials? HARRIS: He had a big press conference because he prosecuted one person for seven misdemeanors, which they then knocked down to five. That case still hasn’t gone to trial. RECORDER: The [Hector] Chinchilla case? HARRIS: Yes. You ask me, “Do I believe in public corruption?” It would be irresponsible of me to answer that question. Public corruption, if it is investigated, if there is a complaint given to me of public corruption, I’ll investigate it. RECORDER: But – HARRIS: Let me just finish. If there is an investigation of public corruption that is brought to me for charging, if the evidence is there for public corruption, I’ll charge it. RECORDER: But you wouldn’t actively look for it? HARRIS: Would I go out and — no. The way that we respond, I mean, the criminal justice system, the way that we deal with it from law enforcement, is if a complaint is brought — right? — we investigate it. The district attorney’s office — will I go out and look for it, meaning will I actively — ? There is one case in particular that has come to my attention recently, that concerns me, that involves corruption, that I actually plan on [pursuing]. So to the extent that that type of information comes to me, I will absolutely pursue it and investigate it and prosecute it. � When we’re talking about public corruption, we’re often talking about the misuse of public funds. And there’s nothing that burns me up and offends me more than the misuse of public funds. When you’re talking about it relating to the school district, when you’re talking about it related to public housing, when you’re talking about it relating to the medical professions, and public safety and public health, there is nothing that offends me more. And when I find out about them I’ll investigate, and I’ll prosecute. I don’t care who’s involved. I don’t care who’s involved. RECORDER: We mean, there’s a widespread perception in some quarters of this town that the current administration has engaged in misuse of public funds, public corruption. And we could call all this rumor and innuendo, what have you. We’re just trying to get your sense – HARRIS: Do I believe the rumor? You know, I can’t respond to that. I hear so many rumors. I hear rumors about a lot of things. So am I going to use the resources of my office to pursue rumors? No. But I will pursue complaints. And I will pursue any information that is given to me that is reliable information, right? That is supported information that there is a crime that has occurred. And that I will do. And maybe I’m engaging in semantics, and — you know, I think we’re probably talking about the same thing. During the course of campaigning, there is a concern that has been brought to me about the misuse of certain public funds. And it was brought to my attention as something that had been subject to rumor, and then it was brought to me and I actually went out to see where the public funds were supposed to have been spent, and I could not see where they’ve been spent. And so on the basis of that, I absolutely am going to investigate it. Had it just been a rumor without more, without the ability to get more information, I would not start, you know, put resources, putting a team into investigating a rumor. But certainly I’d keep my eyes open and my ears open and ask around. But when you say an investigation or pursue it, I think, “Am I then going to put a unit onto and actually assign a couple of lawyers and a couple of investigators to actively open an investigation into something?” No. But I will pursue it, absolutely. Absolutely.

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