He was doing compliance checks with his patrol partner and co-supervisor Christy Henzi. A cautious former credit union manager with a butch hair cut, Henzi uses a softer touch with clients — a sign over her desk reads "Do No Harm" — yet she also acknowledges the limitations of extending help. "You can only tap into what they want to do. They're the driver."

At an average 39.6 years old and with 7.4 prior convictions, members of the realignment group are generally older than other probationers, and saddled with more offenses. Though state officials have dubbed them "non, non, nons" — meaning their convictions are for non-violent, non-sex related, non-serious crimes — probation isn't getting too comfortable: That designation only applies to the latest conviction. They could, and often do, have heavy crimes in their pasts.

"We are getting some very serious individuals, and we are seriously supervising them," Chief Still says.

Adult Probation Chief Wendy Still — a three-decade veteran of California’s corrections system — says she sees realignment as an “opportunity” to finally stop the revolving door to prison.
Jamie Soja
Adult Probation Chief Wendy Still — a three-decade veteran of California’s corrections system — says she sees realignment as an “opportunity” to finally stop the revolving door to prison.

Probation officers overseeing the high-risk realignment group will be armed, and the caseloads will be kept to 50 clients per officer, instead of the 150 to 200 on regular roster. As of press time, 14 of the 177 released to this county have been arrested for new offenses — mostly property and drug crime charges, with one violent crime, according to department statistics. That puts San Francisco at an 8 percent re-arrest rate, which is greater than three other Bay Area counties and Los Angeles, where the rates have been around 2 to 3 percent.

Chief Still reports that the number of clients with active warrants — either for a new crime or for absconding, corrections-speak for breaking contact with their probation officer — has hovered below 10 percent. Yet the absconders have been returning or getting arrested quickly by police, and as of press time, one had disappeared. "So we're already achieving great results," Still says.

The doesn't mean officers aren't cautious.

On compliance checks last month, Henzi and Calvillo carry pistols and extra ammo on their belts, hidden under their baggy shirts.

Once inside the dreary Lawrence Hotel, Calvillo creeps up to a door.

He listens and then knocks.

"Who is it?"

Calvillo barks, "It's probation, Mr. Hill! Open up!"

A couple seconds pass, and the door opens. Calvillo immediately switches his persona from tough cop to gregarious social worker: "Wazzup, man! How ya' doing? Sleeping?"

Hill, a despondent black man pushing past middle age, sits on the single bed, wearing a Nike jacket. His head bobs, and his mouth twitches. Calvillo and Henzi scan the tiny room: white walls, one dresser, TV, clothes tossed on a chair, a sheet tacked over the window. Empty Olde English 800 and Steel Reserve cans have been tossed in the garbage basket.

Calvillo inspects some burnt nubs on the dresser. "Are you smoking?"

"No," Hill answers. "I have a friend that was."That is enough for Calvillo to whip out his handcuffs and secure Hill — always an option during a compliance check as a precaution — even as he assures Hill that he's not necessarily in trouble. He pats down Hill's pant legs, but also gives a more comforting pat on the shoulder. Henzi goes through the clothes on the chair. Calvillo warns Hill to fess up if he's got any drugs in the room. "If you tell me, we can work with you, but if we find it —"

Before Hill admits to anything, Henzi pulls a glass crack pipe out of a tan parka. Hill interjects, "If you notice, it's a girl coat. That my coat right there," he says, motioning to a leather jacket. Henzi then rifles through that one and pulls a crack pipe from the pocket.

"When's the last time you smoked?" Calvillo asks.

"About like three days ago."

Despite his earlier warning, Calvillo doesn't make an arrest. Instead, he instructs Hill to follow up about rehab, and Henzi hauls off the pipes.

"You can't keep putting people in county jail for having a crack pipe," Calvillo explains. "There's just not the capacity."

Hill wasn't the only realignment client behaving badly that day. At the Potter Hotel at Eighth and Mission, the desk attendant told the Calvillo and Henzi that their client had moved out of his room a week prior. "That's a no-no," Calvillo says: All clients are required to report a change of address immediately. The officers say they'll issue a warrant and maybe mete out a sanction, yet, in the end, they just admonished him, says Henzi. Under the realignment law, probation officers can deal violators a 10-day "flash incarceration" or put them on an ankle GPS monitor. The realignment clients can serve up to six months in county jail on a violation, while regular probationers serve up to a year.

Later, Calvillo cruises down Eddy Street through the Tenderloin, an easy way to spot many clients at once. He soon sees one he recognized holding what looked to be a beer can in a plastic bag. Calvillo stops in the middle of the lane and makes an ominous "come here" motion with his finger. The man, wearing a grass-green running suit and an aluminum eye patch, approaches and leans over to look into the car.

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