Putting gangbangers up in front?

Congratulations, alleged San Francisco street gang members! If Public Defender Jeff Adachi has his way, you would soon go right to the front of the line for public assistance programs, including but not limited to “city-funded economic development, employment, vocation, educational, housing, asset building, mental health, drug treatment and social service.”

Are you among the 94 suspected gang members named in one of City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s three court injunctions that make it a criminal offense to congregate publicly in neighborhoods you and your associates have terrorized? If so, you could become eligible for city aid ahead of other less-worthy groups such as foster children, crime victims, seniors and the disabled.

This bizarrely misguided only-in-San Francisco proposal was floated by Adachi in a recent fax to members of the Board of Supervisors. The public defender called it a “path to redemption” for people named in the injunctions who are now left “high and dry.” He argued that no other vulnerable residents would lose services, since this plan covers only 94 people — plus anyone else named in future injunctions.

Herrera promptly countered that gangbanger service priority “sends an irresponsible message to law-abiding youth that the bestway to gain local government assistance is to join criminal street gangs.” The concept of injunctions against public assembly by gang members in targeted neighborhoods has been used in Los Angeles and other California cities since the 1980s. But upon its San Francisco arrival in 2006, the policy sparked a somewhat rancorous feud between the city attorney and the public defender.

Adachi’s trial balloon for extra gangbanger aid was attached to a new push — co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights — for establishing a city review board to hear appeals by suspects claiming they were unjustly listed in the injunctions or had now reformed themselves.

The Examiner does support the general principle of independent agency review, which presumably is more unbiased than in-house investigation. However, Herrera was quick to point out, San Francisco’s anti-gang court injunctions are structured as a court order and can only be revoked or amended by court appeal.

Herrera also said his original injunction draft included detailed opt-out recommendations that were removed by the court. And the city attorney insisted he has an open door for gang members and their legal representatives seeking to prove they don’t belong on the list.

So any change in injunction enforcement would require revision of the court order in accordance with legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors. This certainly could happen because as we all know, the supervisors have taken stands on matters considerably stranger than anti-gang injunctions. However, The City hardly needs yet another special board. We see no reason why gang appeals couldn’t be heard by the recently strengthened Office of Citizen Complaints, which handles police misconduct allegations.

Meanwhile, let’s not give the gangbangers more special privileges than any other San Franciscan.

General OpinionOpinion

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