SAN FRANCISCO — Capt. Paul Michael Miyamoto officially announced his candidacy for San Francisco County sheriff on June 28 at City Hall, accompanied by several supporters, including Chinese lion dancers.
The San Francisco native, the son of a Chinese American mother and Japanese American father, is seeking to succeed Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who is retiring after 31 years. Being a city and a county, San Francisco has both police and sheriff’s departments, which cover the same area but have separate responsibilities.
“Sheriff Hennessey has established a strong foundation of effective programs that deal with violence, substance abuse and recovery, and education,” Miyamoto said in a statement. “I believe we must ensure the continuation of these programs and the successes they have had in the reduction of crimes committed by individuals reintroduced into the community.”
Having served in the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) for 15 years, Miyamoto said he knows what works and what doesn’t. “We don’t have to change what we do, just how we do it. I will strive to ensure that the programs remain relevant to the changing needs of our community. We will continue the programs in place, streamlining what works and anticipating changes in the criminal justice system that will expand our department’s role in public safety.
“As the sheriff, my goal is to ensure the effective re-integration of individuals from custody into our community. Reducing the chances of re-offending means increasing public safety for us all.”
Miyamoto has been a supervisor in the jails as well as manager of the training unit, the investigations unit, and the institutional patrol unit at San Francisco General Hospital. As a captain, he has been responsible for managing both the department’s maximum security jail and, since 2009, the largest jail that offers programs and education for those incarcerated.
Since 2005, he has served as the commander of the department’s Special Response Team, which handles emergencies requiring special weapons and tactics training. He has also served as operations lieutenant both at the oldest county jail and the opening of the newest jail at San Bruno.
In addition, Miyamoto was a team leader in the Urban Shield SWAT team competition from 2007-2009, and participated in the Best in the West SWAT Competition for five years.
Outside his duties with the SFSD, Miyamoto has been active in the community. Since 1999, he has participated every year in the SFPD’s Lion Dance Team at the annual Chinese New Year Parade. In addition, he has volunteered with Self-Help for the Elderly, a non-profit committed to helping low-income and isolated seniors by providing social services and hot meals. He also volunteers his time coaching basketball both for daughter Melanie’s school team and son Jordan’s league team.
Born in 1967, Miyamoto attended Lowell High in San Francisco before earning his bachelor’s degree in history from UC Davis. At the SFPD Police Academy, he was elected president of the 17th Regional Class. He met his wife, LeeAnn, in 1996 when both were SFSD deputies. She transferred to SFPD and served as a police officer for 10 years. They have five children: Melanie (9), Jordan (7), and triplets Joseph, Marissa, and Maya (3).
In addition to being overwhelmingly endorsed by the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (353 out of 400 votes), Miyamoto has garnered support from San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty (a candidate for mayor), former State Sen. Quentin Kopp, former Department of Emergency Management Director Vicky Hennessy, and former Police Chief Anthony Ribera.
Don Wilson, president of the association, told the San Francisco Examiner that Miyamoto “is a very popular guy in our department. We want one of our own to be sheriff.”
If elected, Miyamoto would be San Francisco’s first Asian American sheriff.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is considered the front-runner in the race. Hennessey has endorsed him, saying that Mirkarimi’s experience at City Hall — he was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2004 — will make him an effective advocate for the SFSD.
Although he has not served as a sheriff’s deputy, Mirkarimi is a graduate of the San Francisco Police Academy and a former investigator for the District Attorney’s Office. As the supervisor of District 5, which includes the Western Addition, a high-crime area, he has been involved in policing and public safety issues. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mirkarimi has argued that if law enforcement experience were a requirement for the job, Hennessey — who had never been a peace officer before becoming sheriff in 1979 — would have been considered unqualified.
District 5 also includes Japantown, where Mirkarimi has been active in planning, preservation and development issues. His endorsers include Board of Education member Emily Murase, a leader in the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program at Rosa Parks Elementary School; Planning Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya, a board member of the Topaz Museum; Fire Commissioner Steve Nakajo, executive director of Kimochi Inc.; and Sandy Mori, former development director of Kimochi and former president of the Japantown Task Force.
Born to an Iranian father and a mother of Russian-Jewish descent, Mirkarimi has joked that some people think his last name is Japanese.
Among the past and present elected officials supporting Mirkarimi are Assemblymember Fiona Ma, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting (a mayoral candidate), Supervisors Eric Mar, Jane Kim, David Campos and John Avalos, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin (chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party), and former Mayor Art Agnos. He received only two votes from the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, however.
David Wong, a 20-year SFSD veteran who received 11 votes from the association — which he headed for eight years — was the lone candidate running against Hennessey in 2007 and took out papers to run again this year. But according to the Bay Area Reporter, the Hong Kong native has dropped out of the race after concluding that he cannot win.
Hennessey fired Wong in May for allegedly striking a handcuffed female inmate, but Wong said the move was politically motivated. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Wong said in an email to members of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, “Even if the charge against me were true, which the claim is not, I was terminated for a minor infraction which has normally resulted at most in no more than a suspension.”
Wong, who is appealing his termination, said in an interview that he was protecting civilian staff in the incident.
The Bay Area Reporter said that another candidate, SFPD Officer Michael Evans, has also dropped out, leaving former sheriff’s deputy John Gray as the only gay candidate in the race. Also in the running is SFPD Capt. Greg Corrales of Mission Station.