OPINION Serving as San Francisco Sheriff is a huge civic responsibility. The sheriff has 1,000 employees, more than 2,000 pretrial and sentenced prisoners daily, and management responsibility for a budget of more than $150 million. And, like all department heads, the sheriff’s involved in a lot of politics.
I believe Sup. Ross Mirkarimi is the person best prepared to serve as San Francisco’s next sheriff.
Mirkarimi has the law enforcement experience of graduating from the San Francisco Police Academy (as class president) and more than eight years of on-the-job experience as an investigator for the San Francisco District Attorney. He was the lead investigator in one of the city’s all-time biggest white collar crime cases, against Old Republic National Title Insurance Company.
As a union labor representative in the D.A.’s office, he picked up some significant experience negotiating contracts for public safety personnel under the CALPERS retirement system.
He’s no stranger to the training and discipline of a paramilitary institution, having been certified in advanced environmental crime forensics from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., as well as earning an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy for serving in the reserves.
Equally important, Mirkarimi has demonstrated the progressive values required to maintain and expand San Francisco’s outstanding track record of diversity in hiring, innovation in criminal justice, and commitment to rehabilitation San Francisco deserves in our next sheriff.
Elected supervisor in 2004, and reelected in 2008 with 77 percent of the vote, Mirkarimi has been a very effective advocate for his district and for San Francisco — especially on public safety issues.
As a member of the Budget Committee for five years and twice chair of the Public Safety Committee, he is intimately familiar with the complicated issues confronting all partners in San Francisco’s criminal justice system, whose combined budgets account for well over $1 billion.
Mirkairmi and I have worked together on many criminal justice issues, including the creation of San Francisco’s Reentry Council and an innovative community-based program that provides case management services to ex-offenders who have a history of violence. That program — the No Violence Alliance — has significantly reduced recidivism among the program’s participants. It was a risky venture to take on violent offenders as a case management study, but both Mirkarimi and I felt that it was time San Francisco expanded its approach toward effective reentry.
It is this type of thoughtful, yet courageous approach to our criminal justice challenges that leads me to endorse Ross Mirkarimi to be my successor.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has many difficult challenges ahead: a diminishing budget; the governor’s “prison realignment,” which will put many state prisoners in the county jail; preserving the jail’s rehabilitation programs; and finding cost-effective ways of managing the 40,000 individuals who come through San Francisco’s jails each year.
I believe Ross Mirkarimi brings the right combination of law enforcement training, legislative experience, and political acumen to meet these challenges. I am proud to support him in his bid to become our next sheriff.
Mike Hennessey is sheriff of San Francisco.