November’s ballot for San Francisco’s hotly contested District Attorney seat will have one more name on it: John Hamasaki, a criminal defense attorney and former police commissioner.
Records show that the outspoken critic of San Francisco policing and, more recently, of interim-District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ first weeks in office, pulled paperwork this morning to run for the office. Jenkins was appointed to the District Attorney seat earlier this summer by Mayor London Breed after Chesa Boudin was ousted in a controversial recall.
Hamasaki was well-known as an aggressive member of the police commission who harshly criticized the San Francisco Police Department and its union for the department’s racial disparities and recurring violence against civilians.
He would spar publicly with the chief of police, and the commission often received calls for his removal, citing his controversial Twitter posts. Most recently, he spoke out against the chief’s decision to pull out of an agreement with the DA’s office to allow DA investigators to take the lead on police violence cases.
Hamasaki decided not to make himself available for another term on the commission shortly after that disagreement, and stepped down in April, saying there was not enough will within the SFPD or on the commission to change the police department’s “culture of corruption and brutality.” His reappointment, however, was no sure thing.
The news that Hamasaki filed papers to run for the office this morning was met with support on Twitter from a progressive base that, until now, did not have a candidate to push forward progressive ideologies against Jenkins and another former police commissioner and DA candidate, Joe Alioto Veronese.
Boudin ruffled feathers in San Francisco with his anti-carceral approach to prosecution and unprecedented determination to hold police criminally accountable for misconduct, and many who voted to recall him have rallied around Jenkins and her policies. Jenkins was a key member of the movement to recall Boudin.
Just this week, Jenkins came under heightened scrutiny for the income she took home while campaigning for Boudin’s recall. She was reportedly paid six figures in six months for consulting work, and her pay came from a nonprofit — founded by a San Francisco billionaire and recall backer — that is not permitted to participate in political campaigns.
Boudin announced last week that he would not run for District Attorney in November against Jenkins.
In the past two months, Hamasaki took to Twitter to join in, and often lead, the discourse about the new DA’s direction. He and other skeptics have closely watched Jenkins’ first moves in office as she has fired attorneys, rolled out apparently regressive “war-on-drugs” policies, and rolled back plea deals in favor of jail time for drug crimes, in an approach starkly different from that of her predecessor.
In recent days, however, Hamasaki has scrubbed his Twitter posts back to February, apparently in preparation for much more public scrutiny.
Hamasaki has not yet responded to a request for comment. This story will be updated if he does.