Gascon Calls on Mirkarimi to Recuse Himself From Domestic Violence Duties; Jane Kim Says Would Support Recall

Ross Mirkarimi (Mina Kim/KQED)
Political analyst Corey Cook told me today in relation to the Mirkarimi vote that his “hope is that last night ended this and now we can talk about other things … rather than continuing to litigate this issue about whether Mirkarimi should be removed.”

That’s may be wishful thinking.

DA George Gascon today called on Mirkarimi to recuse himself from part of his official duties, saying that “at a minimum,” he is “incapable of adequately performing the functions of his office that relate to crimes of domestic violence.”

Gascon said, “I will not allow the clock to be rolled back on thirty years of progress in protecting victims of domestic violence. No victim of crime should fear that their call for help will go unanswered. No victim should have to consider whether their claim will be taken seriously because they are reporting it to an individual who has committed the same crime.”

Gascon listed seven areas related to domestic violence that he wants overseen by a high level administrator “pulled out from under the Sheriff’s supervision.” (Full statement below.)

We have a call out to Mirkarimi now.

And in other this-will-never-be-over news, Supervisor Jane Kim, one of four votes against removing the sheriff from office, said in a statement explaining her decision that she would support recalling him.

To recap, on Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declined to remove Mirkarimi from his position as San Francisco sheriff on charges, filed by Mayor Ed Lee, of official misconduct. The charge stemmed from the sheriff’s guilty plea related to an incident of domestic violence against his wife. Four supervisors — David Campos, John Avalos, Kim and Christina Olague — voted against removal, depriving the mayor of the nine-vote super-majority he needed to prevail.

Today on KQED’s Forum program, Suzy Loftus, a member of the San Francisco Police Commission who has also prosecuted many domestic violence cases, also strongly questioned whether Mirkarimi could perform his job in relation to domestic violence…

“There’s been one overriding concern…from the moment we learned of the domestic violence that occurred… Can someone who is convicted of domestic violence, who has subsequently minimized the violence, who has been a part of vilifying witnesseses who come forward to report the violence,  discharge the duties of sheriff in one of the most progressive cities in America, where we really believe  we are leaders in the fight against violence, against women and vulnerable communities? It’s been clear…he can’t do that. We’re scratching our heads at how the Board of Supervisors found otherwise.”

And two domestic violence organizations, Domestic Violence Consortium and La Casa de las Madres, have sent out this joint statement:

The advocacy community shares the concern of the San Francisco Ethics Commission, the mayor, the district attorney, the city attorney, seven supervisors and two out of three San Francisco voters–that a person convicted of domestic violence, and one who has consistently minimized the severity of this crime, is simply unfit to serve in a leading law enforcement role in our city. It is a conflict of interest to have the current Sheriff oversee San Francisco’s pioneering domestic violence programs, and as a probationer, he cannot even access his own jail without special approval that he must give himself. San Francisco deserves better

Mirkarimi, for his part, today criticized both law enforcement and the domestic violence community on Forum, saying, “To this day, nobody from the domestic violence agencies, nobody from the police department, district attorney, has ever reached out… [to] the very person they claimed to defend, the very person that they have tried to use.” That was a reference to his wife, Eliana Lopez, who disavowed the case against her husband despite willingly appearing in a video made by a neighbor in which she showed a bruise she’d received from Mirkarimi.

Gascon statement:

I believe I echo the sentiment of many San Franciscans when I say I have grave concerns about Ross Mirkarimi’s ability to manage the Sheriff’s Department. While Ross was entitled to the process that unfolded and it has been resolved with his reinstatement, there are serious public safety concerns that remain unresolved.

I appreciate the work of the Ethics Commission, the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The Mayor sought suspension which the Ethics Commission recommended and the Board of Supervisors rejected. Ross is now reinstated as our Sheriff and I accept that. What I will not accept is any compromise of public safety as a result of his reinstatement. Ross Mirkarimi is on probation in this county for a crime of domestic violence. He is, at a minimum, incapable of adequately performing the functions of his office that relate to crimes of domestic violence. I am calling upon Ross to recuse himself from the duties in his office that relate to the custody, supervision, safety and rehabilitation of domestic violence offenders.

During the remainder of his probation he needs to wall himself off from this conflict by appointing a high level administrator within his department to oversee all domestic violence related work. This independent authority should be pulled out from under the Sheriff’s supervision and be allowed to make all decisions related to domestic violence matters including:

·    The Domestic Violence Batterer’s Program that the Sheriff’s Department oversees, both in custody and out of custody programs. ·    Supervision of inmates for domestic violence related crimes ·    Direct disciplinary decision making on Sheriff’s personnel charged for domestic violence crimes and any administrative discipline related to domestic violence incidents. ·    Bailiffs in Domestic Violence Court including Dept 50 and Domestic Violence cases sent to other departments ·    Sheriff’s classification services on all incoming domestic violence suspects booked into custody ·    Investigation by Sheriff’s Department Detectives in pending or future domestic violence related matters by current inmates including monitoring of jail calls ·    Process for serving civil restraining orders related to domestic violence proceedings in Family Court.

This request is specific, limited and operational. It is crafted to address the core public safety concern arising from the Sheriff’s criminal conduct.

As leaders in public safety, we have a moral obligation to protect all victims of crime. These roles demand that we think beyond ourselves and prioritize the most vulnerable members of our community. These roles should not be self serving, but rather, a noble undertaking to give voice to the voiceless. I implore Ross to embrace this obligation and rectify what he has broken.

I will not allow the clock to be rolled back on thirty years of progress in protecting victims of domestic violence. No victim of crime should fear that their call for help will go unanswered. No victim should have to consider whether their claim will be taken seriously because they are reporting it to an individual who has committed the same crime.

As the chief law enforcement official in this City and County, I will stand unapologetically with the victims. I will work tirelessly to be sure both victims and witnesses know this city does not tolerate domestic violence. I will work to ensure that all of our public safety leaders and agencies afford these victims and every victim a safe refuge where they will be heard and protected.

Our mission in public safety must be to protect and reassure the victims of crime over and above the individual desires of one elected official with a criminal record. San Francisco is better than this moment.

The Sheriff has another opportunity to act with grace and true compassion by recusing himself from the supervision of domestic violence activities in his department.  He can begin to heal the divide in this city and reassure victims that he can be the kind of Sheriff they deserve. I hope he will take this opportunity and begin to rebuild trust with all of us.

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  • Wendy Witt

    Gascon is still trying to score points in a game of political football. In his statement he anoints himself as the the “chief law enforcement official” in the City. In reality he is the top prosecutor in S.F. (which in and of itself is laughable given that he has NEVER actually tried a case!) but no where in the city charter or state constitution does it say that the local district attorney is the “chief law enforcement official.” In fact, historically that designation goes to the locally elected sheriff. Gascon’s call for recusal reeks of political gamesmanship and over reaching.

  • Lynn

    Bravo for Gascon! Having Mirkarimi the person responsible for DV issues certainly is a step backward. How can he carry out duties related to this issue when (clearly) he doesn’t even understand the problem, himself? He continues to paint himself as the victim, which only highlights his gross misunderstanding of DV.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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