Jeff Adachi was one of the few elected public defenders in the country. He won the job in 2001, when then-Mayor Willie Brown –in a blatantly political move — appointed the daughter of then-state Senator John Burton to the after longtime PD Jeff Brown left to take a job on the state Public Utilities Commission.
Everyone in town knew that Kimiko Burton was utterly unqualified for the job. But Brown did what Brown would do, and Burton soon pushed Adachi, who had worked in the office since the 1980s, out, fearing a potential rival. He then ran against her and won.
Now Mayor London Breed is in a similar situation: She will name Adachi’s replacement, who will then have to run in November. The obvious choice for the job, if the mayor were to look only at qualifications, would be Adachi’s chief attorney, Matt Gonzalez.
But Gonzalez did not support Breed for mayor. If she makes a purely political appointment, and names someone who forces out potential rivals the way Burton did, it will devastate one of the best and most important public agencies in the city and threaten thousands of poor people, particularly people of color, who desperately need top-notch legal defense.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Some of the TV news coverage of Jeff Adachi’s death has been utterly repugnant.
Channel 4 and Channel 7 seem to be trying to outdo each other with “scoops” based on reports that I am almost certain were leaked by the cops, many of whom hated Adachi.
Police reports aren’t public. When the police shoot and kill young people of color, their families can’t get those reports.
But when Adachi died in an apartment in North Beach, not only the reports but photos taken by the officers wound up on the TV news. Where do you supposed those came from? Why do you suppose they wound up with the sensation-driven TV stations?
The photos have been widely publicized with no context at all. There are photos of “an unmade bed” – a salacious innuendo with no relevance. There are pictures of liquor bottles – although there is no evidence or even suggestion that Adachi drank anything but two glasses of wine.
There is zero — zero — evidence of foul play. Everyone agrees with that.
The Medical Examiner’s Office called off the cops, saying there was no evidence of a crime – and there still isn’t. Instead, the cops showed up anyway (why is nobody investigating why that happened?) Are some officers at the SFPD trying to damage the reputation of one of the city’s heroes – before he’s been dead more than a day? Looks like it.
And the TV news is going along with this farce.
To its immense credit, the Chron has been much more circumspect, waiting – as a responsible news outlet should – for the actual facts to come in. Same with Channel 5, which is just reporting that the Medical Examiner is looking into the cause of death.