San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera speaks during a press conference. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

City attorney seeks 2020 sunset date for SF gang injunctions

Dennis Herrera takes step to automatically remove men from controversial lists

City Attorney Dennis Herrera is taking another step toward clearing San Francisco’s gang injunctions.

Herrera, who began removing the names of dozens of men from his controversial lists last year, announced Monday that he would ask a judge to approve a Dec. 31, 2019 expiration date for the remaining injunctions.

Unless the city attorney takes action by the end of the year to keep certain men on the lists for participating in gang activity, the names of 53 individuals who are still subject to the injunctions would be automatically removed.

Since 2007, the injunctions have barred dozens of men from engaging in activities such as loitering and interacting with other suspected gang members in certain neighborhoods.

Herrera sought injunctions from the courts in an effort to clamp down on gang violence in the Mission, Western Addition, Visitacion Valley and Bayview-Hunters Point.

But Herrera started to clear the lists in 2018 after the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi criticized them as unfair and outdated.

All 139 men originally named in the lists were black or Latino, and many of them had either died or aged out of gang activity.

Herrera defended his injunctions at the time while taking steps to update them. He has removed 86 men from the lists since last year.

In a statement Monday, the city attorney said his injunctions contributed to the decline in homicides and violent crime in San Francisco over the years.

“Law enforcement is always evolving, and we’re entering a new era in public safety,” Herrera said. “My office will keep pursuing public safety solutions that protect San Franciscans. We will continue to work with law enforcement to file other types of targeted civil injunctions to combat human trafficking, drug manufacturing and sales, illegal gambling, and other dangerous activities that harm our neighborhoods.”

San Francisco is not the only city to face scrutiny over the practice.

In 2017, Los Angeles removed thousands of names off its lists after facing scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union. The following year, a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing its injunctions after finding that those named did not have a chance to defend themselves in court.

But the City Attorney’s Office says the men subject to the San Francisco injunctions have had the opportunity to challenge their designations as gang members in court both before and after being named.

Gang injunctions are also often criticized as being overly broad, but Herrera argues his injunctions target specific individuals whose additions to the lists are approved by a judge.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who has been critical of the injunctions, called the news “the right thing to do.”

“This forward-thinking change to the gang injunction policy recognizes that San Francisco is in a very different place than in 2007 when these injunctions were first implemented, as our neighborhoods have undergone dramatic changes,” Fewer said in a statement.

Public Defender Manohar Raju said Herrera is moving in the right direction but should consider “bringing an immediate end” to the injunctions.

“The purpose of the gang injunctions was to bar people from areas in which they were likely to get into trouble,” Raju said in a statement. “But instead those injunctions alienated people from the communities they were from and needed to be rooted in if they were to succeed. These injunctions have hurt people trying to rehabilitate and aren’t necessary.”

Another critic of the practice, Supervisor Shamann Walton, said in a statement that “today is a win for social justice.”

“This protects the civil rights of people of color and allows individuals the opportunity to positively re-enter society without additional obstacles,” Walton said.

This story has been updated to include additional information.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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