Sheriff Miyamoto talks priorities, challenges

Sheriff Miyamoto, as you begin your four-year term, what are your goals and priorities?

My priority is to keep people safe inside and outside the jail. We have one of the nation’s lowest incarceration rates, with more justice-involved people awaiting resolution of their cases in alternatives to incarceration. Our agency helps people reenter the community, from high school and college classes, employment training and behavioral health support inside the jail, to support services for justice-involved people on the outside. As Sheriff, I want to enhance and expand these services, which help the communities we serve and promote public safety.

I want to fill our open positions and expand training. The Sheriff’s Office endured a hiring freeze for more than five years from 2010 to 2015, in which we’re still playing catch up. Our goal is to reduce our overtime budget by 10 percent. We have one of the most diverse and inclusive Sheriff’s agencies serving and protecting everyone’s safety inside and outside the jail and in the community with good pay, benefits and promotional opportunities. Spread the message: we’re hiring.

I want to ensure trust and transparency in the Sheriff’s Office. We collaborate with our city family agencies to build and nurture relationships and trust and provide services to all the communities we help. We’re working with the Department of Public Health and have created psychiatric sheltered living units inside our jails for people with behavioral health issues. Our behavioral health assistance teams, comprised of trained deputies and Department of Public Health specialists, are coordinating care and individual treatment plans for people housed in these units. And it’s making a positive difference in their lives, creating new hope for their successful re-entry into the community.

I want to expand partnerships like this. 

Sheriff Miyamoto shares first message to staff

What do you see as the biggest challenge going forward, and how do you plan to address this?

Closing County Jail #4 at the Hall of Justice. This will be the third jail the Sheriff’s Office will close in 10 years, eliminating over half the beds in our jail system (over 1,000). We still have almost 300 people who have been arrested for serious or violent felonies inside the Hall of Justice jail. We have a plan for renovating and securing existing space at our other two jails, which will replace some of the beds lost by closing the Hall of Justice jail. We’re also looking at the Mayor’s proposed Justice Campus as a place where the Sheriff’s Office can work with the Department of Public Health to house people with behavioral health issues safely and humanely. All of this takes investment so we’ll be asking the City to invest in our plans.

Sheriff Miyamoto message to staff Super Bowl weekend

You’re the first Asian-American to serve as Sheriff in the state of California. What does this mean to you?

It means everything to me. My father’s family survived and triumphed after being forcibly relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. I lost my first election for Sheriff in 2011. Eight years later, I tried again and won. The Miyamoto’s are survivors. I’m humbled if my story inspires others to never give up.  

Miyamoto father's family at Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Wyoming

Phil Miyamoto (Sheriff's father & oldest boy) and family at Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Wyoming

During your swearing-in ceremony, you talked about your family and your career with the Sheriff’s Office. Can you tell us about that?

On my very first day on the job in 1996, my training deputy sent me on an errand, which made me late for the shift I was scheduled to relieve. The deputy on duty was not happy with me. She and I not only overcame that initial stumble, we fell in love and were married five years later. My wife LeeAnn and I have five children including a set of triplets. They’ve been my source of strength and happiness throughout my law enforcement career.

I’ve served the City and County of San Francisco for more than 23 years in the Sheriff’s Office, at every rank up to Assistant Sheriff. I’ve commanded two divisions. Our office has been at the forefront of some of the toughest challenges facing our City, including an increase in the number of people in jail who suffer from behavioral health issues. We’re addressing this head on from training our deputies how to administer Narcan to learning strategies for responding to those in crisis and collaborating with the Department of Public Health to create behavioral health teams in our jails. The latter effort is making a positive difference in incarcerated people’s lives, creating new hope for their successful re-entry into the community.

What is your message to the City of San Francisco with the Sheriff’s Office under your leadership?

Our priority has and always will be to keep people safe inside and outside the jails. More than half the people who are justice involved in San Francisco are not in jail; our office and our justice partners supervise many of these people out of custody while they work to resolve their cases. We are committed to protecting everyone’s safety. 

Sheriff Miyamoto and family at January 8, 2020 swearing-in City Hall

Sheriff Miyamoto and family at January 8, 2020 swearing-in City Hall