adachi.jpgThe heads of the two sides of San Francisco’s criminal justice system were the guests at a forum hosted today by the University of San Francisco’s School of Law.

District Attorney George Gascon and Public Defender Jeff Adachi were the guests at the criminal justice forum, which addressed various local issues, including recent police scandals, the city’s immigration policies, and a neighborhood court program Gascon has proposed.

Despite recent sparring between the two men over a scandal involving videos of alleged police misconduct, they spent today’s forum talking about their willingness to work together.

“We have a good working relationship,” Gascon said. “At the end of the day, … we all want the same outcomes … which is creating safe, livable communities.”

Adachi said, “It’s funny; when people see us both, they think we’re fighting with each other,” but said he has “never had an argument” with the district attorney.

The pair only briefly touched upon the police misconduct scandal, which has caused the dismissal of more than 80 drug and robbery cases after Adachi’s office released a series of videos that appear to show police misconduct.

Most of the videos appear to show police misconduct by plainclothes officers during drug busts at various residential hotels in the city in recent months. The FBI has taken over the investigation into the alleged misconduct.

Gascon said, “You need to be transparent if you want the trust of the people.”

The federal Security Communities program, which requires fingerprints of those booked into local jails to be shared with federal immigration authorities, was also addressed at today’s forum.

Gascon said he does not necessarily agree with the policy, but said San Francisco should not take the lead on changing the program.

“There’s a lot of work that has to be done, but it has to be done in the national context,” he said.

Gascon also talked about the community courts he is creating to handle misdemeanor cases that would lighten the office’s workload.

The cases, mainly low-grade misdemeanors, would be mediated by trained members of the neighborhood and would hand down consequences that would be restorative, rather than punitive, in nature.

The program could take away about 20 percent of his prosecutors’ workloads, Gascon said.

But Adachi had some reservations, saying, “It’s important that people know what their rights are” before taking part in the community courts.

Gascon said there are many issues with the criminal justice system, which he said is “broken” with “overincarceration and overcriminalization” of minor offenses.

He said, “It’s going to take a new kind of leadership” to address these issues. He told the law students in attendance that “it’s your generation of lawyers that will be the ones to carry the banner.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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