California Swears in the First Asian American Sheriff
San Francisco swore in Paul Miyamoto as its 37th sheriff this week, making him the first Asian American to hold the law enforcement position in California.
Miyamoto, who was elected after running unopposed in November, previously served as chief deputy sheriff of the state’s Sheriff Department’s Custody Division — the largest of all its divisions.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra conducted Miyamoto’s swearing-in at the City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, the same time Mayor London Breed held her second inauguration upstairs.
Miyamoto, who succeeds Vicki Hennessy, received acknowledgment for serving the city and county of San Francisco for over 23 years, according to SFist.
Miyamoto first ran for sheriff in 2011 but lost to Ross Mirkarimi. They bid to succeed then-retiring Michael Hennessey, who held the sheriff’s office for more than 30 years.
“Paul, you are the right person for the right time to take up the sheriff’s mantle,” Vicki Hennessy said in a video submitted to the ceremony. “You’ve earned it.”
In his speech, Miyamoto recalled how his grandfather immigrated to San Francisco, built a dry cleaning business and eventually raised a family, which ended up at a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Despite this — and the issues his family faced later — he remained proud to serve the city.
“The Miyamotos became the change they wanted to see. They embodied resilience,” he said.
Miyamoto said it was “humbling” to be the first Asian American sheriff in California in an earlier interview. He hopes to become a role model in the department.
“There’s a humbling feeling, of being a groundbreaker and moving forward as someone of Asian American descent. Especially in this day and age, to be the first at something, is not just an accomplishment but a responsibility, to be someone who models the positive behaviors I want to see in the department,” he told KTVU.
Miyamoto is facing a number of challenges ahead, including an increase of incarcerated individuals “who suffer from behavioral health issues.”
According to the new sheriff, the department has developed psychiatric sheltered living units to address the issue, with public health specialists and trained deputies preparing treatment plans for the inmates.
“It’s making a positive difference in their lives, creating new hope for their successful re-entry into our community,” he said, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Miyamoto vowed to offer more of three things to the people of San Francisco.
“As the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department moves forward, you can expect more of this from my staff and me: care, compassion and collaboration,” he said, according to SFGate.