Sheriff Vicki Hennessy Will Retire, Opening Up November Election

November will mark the city's first sheriff's election without an incumbent since 2011.

Sheriff Vicki Hennessy will not seek re-election this November in a decision that opens up the race to non-incumbents for the first time eight years.

Hennessy will instead retire at the end of her term in January 2020, the Chronicle first reported Thursday. She was on the fence for months while she faced a painful knee-replacement surgery and is near the first anniversary of her husband’s death, a retired San Francisco officer who passed after more than 40 years of marriage.

“I am grateful for everyone’s support, professionalism, and commitment throughout my career and during my tenure as sheriff — especially to my dedicated sworn and non-sworn staff,” Hennessy said in a statement.

Her term involved allegations of deputies forcing people incarcerated to fight gladiator-style, additional allegations from earlier this year of excessive force and misconduct, debates around the city’s sanctuary policy. Hennessy will not only say goodbye to four-year role as sheriff, but to the department she joined in 1975. She was the youngest captain in California law enforcement by 1983 and was San Francisco’s first female sheriff.

Mayor London Breed called Hennessy a “tremendous leader” both as sheriff and her decades-long career in public service.

“She was a trailblazer in the Sheriff’s Department, paving the way for women to serve, and she has fought to advance public safety and modernize our criminal justice system,” Breed said in a statement. “We are lucky to have had her leading the Sheriff’s Department and I want to wish her the best of luck in her well-deserved retirement.”

With Hennessy’s decision comes San Francisco’s first sheriff’s election without an incumbent since 2011. November’s election will also yield a new district attorney and public defender in a shake-up of criminal justice leaders.

Candidates for San Francisco Sheriff have until August 9 to file.

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