Mirkarimi domestic-violence scandal sparks call for more prevention funding

S.F. Examiner File PhotoBoard of Supervisors President David Chiu said his legislation that would pump more money into the D.A.'s Office to deal with domestic violence crimes has nothing to do with the controversy surrounding Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

Despite all the vitriol and bad feelings that came out of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s protracted domestic violence scandal, victims in San Francisco might ultimately have that sad saga to thank for increased funding toward enforcement and services.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced legislation Tuesday to spend $750,000 from The City’s general fund for more personnel in the District Attorney’s Office dedicated to domestic violence crimes. The money would also fund a public-awareness campaign and the restoration of a dedicated staff position to tackle domestic violence issues through The City’s Department on the Status of Women.

Over months of media questions and city hearings, the progressive Mirkarimi described moderate Mayor Ed Lee’s effort to remove him from an elected post as a “political witch hunt.” But Chiu said that although the Mirkarimi matter certainly shed light on the issue, the move to appropriate more money “transcends politics.”

Chiu cited statistics from 2010 and the first half of 2011 — well before the scandal — showing an increase in domestic violence incidents that was met with “either flat or negative funding” for prevention. In that period, according to a recent  report from the Department on the Status of Women, the District Attorney’s Office saw a 10 percent increase in its caseload, crisis lines fielded 47 percent more calls and abuse shelters provided 29 percent more beds to survivors.

“The data show we still have a long way to go in shoring up the adequacy of our domestic violence safety net,” Chiu said.

Lee supports the appropriation because “it will bring needed resources to help victims of domestic violence and raise awareness of the crime,” according to mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey.

Focus on the issue also could help Chiu in a potential 2014 bid for the state Assembly, in which he could find himself facing off against colleague Supervisor David Campos, who cast one of the four controversial votes against ousting Mirkarimi.

With Lee needing nine votes to permanently remove Mirkarimi, only seven supervisors concurred, allowing the sheriff to get his job back with more than $100,000 in back pay. Chiu voted in favor of the ouster.

But local political consultant David Latterman, who helped Chiu in his 2011 mayoral campaign, said there was nothing conniving about Tuesday’s call for more resources toward growing domestic violence problems.

“It’s a shame it took Mirkarimi to get this kind of conversation in The City, but it did,” Latterman said. “But here we are. David Chiu is doing the right thing. Should it have happened a few years ago? Maybe. But people are actually paying attention now.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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