Decades after crack cocaine "epidemic," bill aims for parity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing
Long since the days when cops regularly raided the Tenderloin on a hunt for every glass crack pipe, the SFPD is now a somewhat more lenient beast in the drug realm. Drug arrests in the city dropped by 85 percent in the last five years, according to California Department of Justice data. Police Chief Greg Suhr downsized his narcotics unit, shifting to focus on violent crime.
"People that sell drugs belong in jail because they're preying upon sick people," Suhr told the Guardian, although he added, "People with a drug problem need to be treated, as it's a public health issue."
Suhr said he supports the lower sentencing for crack cocaine to make it on par with powder.
"Cocaine," he said, "is cocaine."
District Attorney George Gascon's office also prosecutes mostly violent and property crimes as opposed to drug possession, reflecting a rare show of agreement between the Public Defender's Office, the SFPD, and the DA. San Franciscans battling drug problems are often diverted to drug courts and rehabilitation programs.
Crack cocaine has largely moved on from San Francisco, leaving its ugly legacy. Meanwhile, heroin use is on the rise, but nevertheless carries the same harsh sentence as crack cocaine for possession with intent to sell.
"It's the pathetic state of politics today that it took this long for this to happen," Boden told us, on sentencing reform. "Now it won't cost me anything, I'll show what a great liberal I am."