San Francisco hasn’t had a new sheriff since 1979, when Sheriff Mike Hennessey was first elected to the post. Now, following Hennessey’s decision to retire, there are three men looking to take his place: Chris Cunnie, Ross Mirkarimi, and Paul Miyamoto. As the race progresses, San Franciscans are learning not only more about these three candidates, but about the sheriff’s office in general–a piece of the criminal justice system that’s had the same leader for over three decades. Last night, the candidates met in a debate at the University of San Francisco. Here’s a brief summary of the candidates and their platforms:
Ross Mirkarimi, many will recognize, as the current San Francisco Supervisor from District 5, the Western Addition. Mirkarimi’s law enforcement credentials include graduating from the police academy, working as an investigator for the district attorneys office, and periodically running down crime suspects while out for a jog. (See this incident, and this one.) At last night’s debate, Mirkarimi–who has Hennessey’s endorsement–stressed the need to continue the pioneering sheriff’s work. Specifically, that means continuing civilian leadership and a reformist attitude to a department responsible for some 55,000 jail inmates a year. San Franciscans enjoy an open, innovative sheriff’s department, Mirkarimi told the crowd, because of Hennessey’s independence, but it hasn’t always been so, and could change if his legacy isn’t honored.
Paul Miyamoto, a captain in the sheriff’s department, took a different view of continuity: as realignment stresses our county system, Miyamoto said, it’s important to have someone in leadership who has worked in the department for years and has the support of its staff–and that’s him. “Stability is very important in a paramilitary organization,” Miyamoto said, and the position is more about running the operation than politics. Miyamoto has the endorsement of the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs Association.
Chris Cunnie disagreed that the office is not a political one–”we wouldn’t be running in an election” otherwise, he said. Cunnie brings a hefty political background to the race, as a former head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. He also served as San Francisco’s undersheriff and headed up Walden House for a number of years. Cunnie’s approach to the debate was as a seasoned veteran who believes in rehabilitation–and as a leader with the connections and know-how to lead a department critical to the county’s public safety.
Full audio of the debate above.