"There's obviously some concern around Mr. Dorsey and some of his work for the police," said former San Francisco Police Commissioner John Hamasaki. Hamasaki referred specifically to a public relations campaign to discredit District Attorney Chesa Boudin while Boudin's office was prosecuting a police officer for excessive use of force. The SFPD alleged that Boudin's office had violated a memorandum of understanding between the police and the DA.
Hamasaki, who is a critic of the SFPD, said "it created this aura that the district attorney was cheating in this case. But the facts that it was based on were misrepresented. It called into question, you know, what the police were doing with their taxpayer money and the resources in the media unit, and then also how that ultimately affected the trial."
Among those who worked with Dorsey in the City Attorney's office is state Sen. Scott Wiener, who called Dorsey "a rock-solid choice" for the job. Wiener, who like Dorsey went to the Board of Supervisors from the City Attorney's office, said it's useful experience for a supervisor to have.
"I can say that being in the City Attorney's Office, you see how city government works and how it's not working," Wiener said. "You're involved in every aspect of city government, and you truly see the good, the bad and the ugly. So Matt is not going to need a huge education in terms of how the different departments are functioning and what needs to be done better."
Dorsey, who said San Francisco must do more to address the lack of affordable housing in the city, said he'll bring his own experiences as a resident to help prioritize the issues he'll emphasize. "I choose not to own a car. I commute generally by Bikeshare. I am a renter, so I think transportation will be important," he said.
Dorsey, who also is HIV-positive, sees a resemblance to the city's drug problems with the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and '90s. "The stigma of who is dying is masking the horror of how many are dying," Dorsey said. "And as somebody who remembers what those days were like, I just keep thinking that this is where a voice from this recovery community is needed."
As expected, Dorsey is a staunch defender of the SFPD, saying that under Chief Bill Scott the police department has made tremendous strides implementing reforms that have reduced unlawful use of force and policies and practices that landed the previous police chief in hot water.
"It is a better police department than people think it is," Dorsey said, adding that the rank-and-file officers don't get the credit other first responders have gotten during the pandemic. "They were making a lot of the same sacrifices that nurses and firefighters and EMTs and others were — just not being appreciated."
But just last week, Dorsey's future colleagues, led by Supervisor Dean Preston, criticized the media relations job Dorsey's office is doing, saying the SFPD was highlighting information that made the police look good with the goal of getting more city funding, while underplaying persistent problems.
"We need to understand to what extent taxpayer funds are being used to help shape media and public narrative on these controversial issues," Preston said.
Preston's comment came at a meeting of the Government Audit and Oversight Committee that he called to explore issues related to the SFPD's communications operation.
Police Chief Bill Scott has often sparred with District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who is facing a recall election. Asked whether he supports Proposition H, the June 7 measure to recall Boudin, Dorsey hedged, saying he is "authentically undecided," adding that "I have some complicated issues around my [SFPD] department's relationship with the district attorney. And, we'll see."
"I'm going to give some thought to it and pray on it and talk to the DA and talk to some others and hear from my residents," he added.
In the meantime, Dorsey's opponents are already gearing up to face him in his first election.
Haney, who said "I have nothing bad to say about Matt," noted that Mahogany was better suited to represent the district given her experience dealing with issues like affordable housing, homelessness and public safety.