Brooke Jenkins speaks with Manny Yekutiel in September, 2022. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

In a Q&A at Manny’s, appointed District Attorney Brooke Jenkins last night shared personal anecdotes and broadly promised accountability. Meanwhile, outside the cafe, protesters chanted and blared sirens. 

Inside, Jenkins said she wants to “be the voice for people who are suffering.” 

She accused the media of polarizing the city, and said her presence as a Black and Latina woman in law enforcement could help change the Black community’s distrust in the system.  

Manny Yekutiel, who hosted the talk at his namesake venue in the Mission, read questions from audience members who wanted to know how the DA would hold police accountable. That was a big concern for critics of the San Francisco Police Department, including the dozen protesters who chanted outside throughout the event. 

One audience member asked for reassurance that some 10 San Francisco police officers facing charges from prior DA Chesa Boudin would still be prosecuted. Some officers face charges for destruction of evidence, while others have been charged in killings of unarmed civilians

Jenkins did not respond directly, and instead shared a story. Her family believed that her great-uncle had been killed by police in the segregated South, Jenkins said, and she knew the feeling of being treated unfairly. 

“Any cop that has broken the law will be prosecuted,” Jenkins said. “If we can prove that case, we move forward.” 

It was unclear from her response how she plans to move forward with the specific, currently pending cases against San Francisco police officers — all of which are reportedly being reviewed or have been delayed since Jenkins took office. Jenkins has also fired or demoted all of the prosecutors who were previously working on those cases. 

“It’s very easy for her to step off and say, ‘Well, I can’t win that.’ So that’s what was going on here, just complete indirection all over the place,” said John Talbott, a business consultant who attended the event. He called Jenkins a skilled attorney who knew how to talk to a crowd. 

People protest outside Manny’s against DA Brooke Jenkins. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.

Former American Civil Liberties Union attorney John Crew said the mere fact that all police misconduct cases are being reviewed under the new DA shows that SFPD members accused of crimes are already being treated differently from the rest of the public with pending cases.

Asked how she would protect vulnerable communities that have experienced injustices at the hands of police, Jenkins simply said that the DA’s office should serve as a “check and balance on policing,” and handle seemingly biased cases differently. 

The specifics of how this would be executed, however, were not given. 

In the packed, sweltering room at Manny’s, audience members fanned themselves and clapped enthusiastically at several of Jenkins’ responses. All the while, protesters outside shouted through megaphones and rapped on the windows.   

Yekutiel kept the mood light, joking with Jenkins about having faced protesters himself. After the event, a brief scuffle broke out at the corner of 16th and Valencia streets, before the apparent instigator quickly left the scene.

Flustered participants, including one protester with a ripped shirt, believed that the man who started the physical altercation had come from inside Manny’s, but Mission Local could not independently confirm this. 

“I’ve never been protested before; I’m not even sure what they’re upset at me about!” Jenkins told Yekutiel on stage. The protesters outside carried signs about high-profile police killings and alleged corruption by Jenkins and other politicians. 

Jenkins insisted that she values transparency and spoke about recent news stories, appearing first in the SF Standard, that she had been paid by the anti-Boudin forces. 

“In retrospect,” she said she wished she had disclosed to the public the controversial income she earned through an organization that helped fund the recall of former DA Chesa Boudin. 

But she insisted that income — purportedly earned for consulting work separate from her volunteer work as a recall spokesperson — was “totally irrelevant.”

“I have not done anything to lose [the public’s] trust, in my view. I understand, like I said, how people would have liked to know the information about what I was doing on the side.” 

Attendees at Tuesday’s event said they respected Jenkins’ openness to speaking in a public forum and her admission that she should have been more forthcoming, but not all were convinced by her answers onstage.  

“She’s definitely a politician; she knew how to really not answer the questions,” said Boudin supporter Gayle Whitley, who attended the event. After the talk, Whitley blocked protesters making their way into Manny’s from entering the room where Jenkins and other audience members were. 

Whitley was concerned about Jenkins’ commitment to police accountability, and was unsure how the DA could go about resolving the drug crisis, which she pointed out is not unique to San Francisco. 

Gayle Whitley prevents protesters from entering the room at Manny’s where DA Brooke Jenkins just gave a talk. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Jenkins said her policy is to allow people four citations for drug infractions before intervention from the DA’s office. According to data from the DA’s office, the SFPD has ramped up misdemeanor drug enforcement, with most of those cases being discharged, thus far, by Jenkins’ office. Upon the fifth citation, Jenkins said, her office would “take jurisdiction” and get involved.   

Jenkins said that one of her priorities as DA is to go after drug dealers, though she did not specify how she plans to approach these cases, other than saying she would avoid deportation. She accused Boudin of releasing drug dealers without sufficient or effective consequences.  

Though Jenkins has, on multiple occasions, called herself a progressive prosecutor who values alternatives to incarceration, these types of statements raised doubts about what she will actually do.  

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. Lane,
    Your link did indeed take me to where Chesa was unresponsive and evasive with a reporter. It certainly ain’t “literally running away Josh Hawley style” but more standard politician behaviour. I think it’s bad behaviour, just to be clear; elected officials should answer questions from the media and constituents and you definitely did NOT make this up out of whole cloth. Thanks for providing the link although I was disappointed not to see Boudin in a hundred yard dash! We will see if Jenkins sets a high bar for responsiveness and media availability. I hope that happens.

  2. This article seems to imply that someone can’t be progressive and actually try to do something about repeat open-air drug users and drug dealers. She doesn’t even want to prosecute the users in criminal court.

    What “types of statements” did she make that make you question that she has a progressive bent? She said she will prosecute cops that behave illegally, give open-air drug users 4 free passes, prosecute drug dealers in a way that doesn’t trigger deportation.

    Do you want her to commit to giving her jacket to the next pusher that looks chilly?

    1. Ambiguous answers are open to interpretation. That is the takeaway.

      The post-Boudin quandry she faces is what to do with the initiated cases against SF LEOs. This will be her ‘true progressive’ test.

      Charging violent acts committed by mentally ill perps as “hate crimes” is not progressive. Following the guidelines set by a sanctuary city is not progressive. Following pre-Boudin precedent on drug charges is not progressive.

      1. Turning a blind eye to attacks on elderly minorities is not progressive either, nor is ignoring obvious racial bias in attacks.

        Agree that what she does with the LEO cases will be key.

        But you can’t say that she’s not progressive just because she’s not going as far as Boudin. Boudin was on the extreme side of progressive. There’s space toward the middle to still be progressive and protect elderly minorities from being victims of assault and do something active to keep drug dealers from victimizing the addicted.

  3. Why didn’t anyone ask her what the content of the consulting she did that she got paid for so handsomely? Did she consult on “educational materials” which were then used to promote the anti-Boudin campaign? Did she “consult” on past cases which could be used to smear Boudin? Calling campaign propaganda “education” is a standard way by which supposedly nonpartisan charitable nonprofits hide their political work. It’s not illegal for her to campaign, but it is illegal for the C3 nonprofit she worked for to pay her for doing so.

  4. amazing how the electorate continues to focus it’s wrath on anyone but her ‘zonor, the mayor for the lack of progress in housing, crime and the filthy streets of our core downtown. it shouldn’t matter where the color bar falls when holding the top executive of a major city accountable.

    1. While this is true, Breed has only been mayor since 2018. You’re talking about longterm trends that really need to blamed on her predecessors as well as every Board of Supervisors this millennium. They all frittered around with millions, now billions, of dollars without asking for accountability.

      I don’t want to purely defend Breed, but you have to look equally hard at the Board of Supes.

      And, quite frankly, you have to blame us. We’re the ones who both vote in people who are unqualified, and marched in the streets during a pandemic lockdown demanding that police not do their jobs.

      1. This Mayor has been at City Hall for +10 years. She was President of the Board of Supervisors, was D5 Supervisor for nearly 2 terms, and when Ed Lee died, she made a power grab to do all 3 jobs (Mayor, Pres of BofS, and D5 Supe too). Thankfully, there was a LOUD OUTCRY from the public. But sure. Go ahead and blame the current supervisors for the lack of accountability, corruption and funny biz at City Hall. Funny thing: Mayoral appointees answer to the Mayor, and not the voters. Breed has filled at least 6 vacancies in the last 6 months with her picks. When will the Mayor be held accountable for her policies, appointments and cronyism?

  5. You gotta give Jenkins credit for going into a hostile environment and answering questions. Her predecessor ran — literally ran, like Josh Hawley — from anyone who disagreed with him.

      1. They were frequently posted on social media during his regime. I didn’t keep bookmarks. May I suggest you search for something like “Boudin avoids press”? You’re a San Franciscan: if you’re actually interested, you can find video. It’s there.

        1. Sorry Boudin was too busy doing his job. Jenkins goes anywhere for limelight and photo-ops because she’s campaigning on city time.

        2. Lane, I am a San Franciscan. I am interested. I can’t find any video of Boudin running away from the press. I Used your suggested search terms and many others. I Did find this one hour long sit down with the press and a live audience in the mission: https://missionlocal.org/2022/05/livestream-joe-eskenazi-talks-to-da-chesa-boudin/

          Seems like you are making stuff up, Lane: reminds me of the recallers’ favorite tactic. I would be more than happy to admit I am wrong. Just show us.

  6. There are few reasons I would never vote for Brooke Jenkins one she only moved to the city in November of last year two she’s been with the district attorney’s office for over a decade why are they still illegal drug dealers making our lives delivering miserable hell her law and order stand just means that she will be arresting the poor the mental the drug addicted the homeless in other words more black and brown people we saw this already with Kamala Harris we need to stop letting people fail upward

  7. It’s funny, I don’t remember Mission Local or any other SF news outlet continually harp in the fact that Boudine did his own firings and demotions when he came into office. However, any article posted about Jenkins seems to harp on that point. The media bias towards Boudine is unbelievable. Luckily the people of San Francisco did the right thing and got him out of there. We ignored the medias’ best efforts to keep him around by publishing nothing but fluff pieces about him before the recall.

    1. Boudin is gone now. Breed installed her choice: Brooke Jenkins. Jenkins is in charge now. The Recall Boudin group filed papers 3 days after the 2019 election where Boudin was elected. He wasn’t even In office yet and they filed a recall. Go ahead. Google it. The SF Department of Elections has the document showing this truth. It is frustrating and alarming that Jenkins doesn’t have (or won’t reveal) her plans for implementing her new way. Violent crime and overdoses are still raging in SF. SFPD is slow to respond ( when they respond at all) and are understaffed and overpaid. Meanwhile, Brooke is campaigning and not doing the job. You cannot blame Chesa anymore.

  8. “saying she would avoid deportation”
    As an immigrant, I assumed any interaction with the justice system would get me deported post-haste and not allowed to return.
    Now – one can commit any number of serious felonies and be spared at least this one consequence. Yeah – I see the “victims” dealing death at Civic Center and my hang – 9th x Mission.
    Hip duds and fancy sneakers.
    Victim-hood can be profitable.