Alameda County residents are in the midst of a historic recall effort against their district attorney, reminiscent of the high-profile 2021 recall of former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin.
The effort to recall Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, who assumed office in January, took a step forward in a recent filing of intent to recall as of Aug. 15.
Recall advocates cite crime rates and safety concerns under Price’s tenure as justifications for recall. On the other hand, supporters of Price call the recall another conservative attempt against progressive district attorneys, part of a pattern that has been seen throughout the Bay Area.
Price’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Price only took office this year and has just begun the reforms she promised when she ran for office,” said Igor Tregub, chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party. “In my opinion, absent actual malfeasance, an elected official should be given an opportunity to do their job for longer than a few months before they can be judged on their record.”
Oakland Police Department data shows an increase in crime over the past year. Carl Chan, community leader and organizer for Save Alameda For Everyone, or SAFE, said this rise in crime is the central reason for the effort to recall Price and that this increase is linked to Price’s soft-on-crime approach.
A current staff member for Price, who requested anonymity in fear of retaliation, rebuked recall efforts, arguing that the efforts of those opposing Price would “maintain the policies that perpetuate mass incarceration.”
“Progressive DAs are easy targets for recall since most people’s natural response to crime is to lock them up, but it takes patience and empathy to see that is not the only response,” the staff member said.
The staff member further countered that Price is working on reforming the internal systems of the Alameda DA office which they alleged has had a historic “culture of complicity” to criminalization policies that campaigns, such as SAFE, lean into.
In response to high crime rates under Price’s short tenure, they alleged the media tends to “sensationalize” crime rates that, while increasing, are not necessarily directly connected to her policies.
Still, Chan argued that current trends in crime cannot be ignored and believes that recalling Price is a necessary solution.
“The crime issue is not getting any better, but if we do not do anything now the crimes will get worse,” Chan said.
The recall process itself is still young; the notice of intent still needs to be approved by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters in order to begin collecting signatures before the petition can become a ballot initiative for the people to vote on.
Currently, Chan said, the recall is just beginning to look for funding and grassroots support.
The recall is not a concern for Price’s office right now, the staff member said.
The staff member, who was also formerly staffed in Boudin’s office, expressed that the San Francisco recall was a “huge distraction” for the office and allegedly prevented key aspects of Boudin’s policy, including police accountability measures, from being successfully implemented.
“The recall of Chesa was a waste of money and government resources as well as a waste of a leader who could have changed the lives of San Franciscians,” the staffer said.
Chan argued that the recall may not result in an immediate decrease in crime, but it will make the county safer in the long term.
A primary complaint from the recall campaign, he noted, was leniency around repeat juvenile offenders.
“The problem is that police departments are doing their job of apprehending suspects and the DA is ignoring that,” Chan said. “They are releasing them because they are too young. We should be giving the young people a chance, but we are giving them the wrong message.”
While the campaign aims to grow, both Tregub and the staff member said they fear that it will distract and limit the effectiveness of Price’s decarceration policies.
For example, Tregub noted that one of the primary reasons for the Alameda County Democratic Party’s opposition to the recall was that it saw the recall as a “waste of taxpayer dollars and time.”
“The movement to recall Price feels undemocratic,” the staff member said. “Progressive prosecutors are taken down before they have a chance to make change, and without them America will continue to be the country with the highest incarceration rates — a majority of those incarcerated are Black and Brown. If we want change, we need to let the elected leaders fill out their terms.”