SHERIFF VICKI HENNESSY
San Francisco Sheriff's Department
Vicki Hennessy served her first shift as a San Francisco Deputy Sheriff on Christmas Eve in 1975 at the old San Bruno women’s jail. A member of the first recruit class, which included women, communities of color and LGBT Deputies, Hennessy bought her own uniform—a white blouse and navy blue pants. She was not issued any equipment or provided any formal training. In fact, the Deputy on the previous shift simply handed her the keys, turned over the jail and told the rookie Deputy to cover the swing shift.
Now, 40 + years on, Deputy Hennessy is now Sheriff Hennessy, San Francisco’s 35th Sheriff since 1850 and the first female to lead the Department. She is also the first San Francisco Sheriff to rise through the ranks and win election from city voters to the Department’s highest position.
Since being sworn in on January 8, 2016, Sheriff Hennessy has reinvigorated and expanded training for Deputy Sheriffs, Supervisors and Command Staff—training she never received that long ago Christmas Eve.
Taking nothing for granted, Sheriff Hennessy has recommitted her Department to focus on safety and respect by reaffirming fundamental jail operations while expanding the breadth and depth of training classes. This includes gender awareness for understanding, protection and privacy of transgender prisoners; crisis intervention to teach staff members how to identify and work with mentally ill offenders; and management classes for newly promoted supervisors on how to set expectations for Deputies and create and maintain a culture of accountability.
She has accelerated Department hiring and has been at the center of San Francisco’s national leadership in criminal justice policies, which emphasize rehabilitation, restorative justice and successful reentry. In County Jail #5 alone, the Sheriff’s Department offers inmates 77 different classes and services -- from addiction support to strategies for avoiding criminal behavior and parenting skills. This is in addition to operating the first charter high school for incarcerated adults and offering in-custody college courses taught by City College of San Francisco professors.
Sheriff Hennessy’s initiatives are informed by one overarching goal: safety for all staff, visitors, inmates and service providers.
A native San Franciscan, Sheriff Hennessy works every day to balance public safety with social justice. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is honored to recognize her with its highest award, The Brennan Award.
Since 1860, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco has been devoted to breaking the cycles of homelessness, poverty, addiction, and domestic violence in the Bay Area. Our programs include:
The Multi-Service Center-South
The Riley Center, Services for Domestic Violence Survivors
The Navigation Center (Division Circle)