Sure. Our advocates we’ve hired are the most diverse class of advocates they’ve ever had, and we did exhaustive training for them. And already, yes, we’re getting feedback from people in the courtrooms that our advocates are better trained and better focused on providing services. So we’ve been getting positive feedback from that.
And we know that having folks who are from the Indigenous communities in Alameda County and who are able to speak Chinese, (like) Cantonese and Mandarin, is very important, having that available for victims in this community.
In the mental health courts, we’ve had over 1,200 cases that have been diverted from the regular criminal prosecution track and people are receiving services through the mental health courts.
Obviously, our Public Accountability Unit, which is part of the Civil Rights Bureau, initially looked at eight cases of police misconduct and we’re holding police accountable.
We filed charges against Officer [Phong] Tran for his misconduct, as well as the deputies at the sheriff’s (office) in Santa Rita Jail, who were not vigilant and perhaps could have prevented [an in-custody death]. We also brought to justice a probation officer that abused the young people that she was responsible for.
Now, there are a lot of different ways of evaluating a district attorney, but some people are pointing to crime rates. And we’ve seen them certainly go down and come back up. How much do you believe a DA impacts crime rates? And should people be looking at that?
A DA has no impact whatsoever on crime rates. That is a failed measure, and it’s been proven over and over across the country. That’s not how you measure the performance of your district attorney. Crime rates go up and down.
Chicago is a classic example where folks studied the crime rates before Kim Foxx’s tenure and during her tenure. And it’s just been proven over and over again that the performance of a district attorney does not have an impact on crime rates.
And so when folks from, say, the recently launched recall campaign, are asking the question if people in Alameda County feel safe with you in office, what do you say to that?
I say people in Alameda County should feel safe based on a number of factors. When we invest in community support for people with mental illness, when we invest in services and opportunities for young people, when we invest in our community, that’s when we’ll see crime go down.
My predecessor was here for 13 years, and I’ve been living in Oakland that entire time. And I can tell you the explosion of gun violence in this community is, quite frankly, unprecedented. Domestic violence rates go up and down throughout the time that I’ve lived in Alameda County.
So, you know, we’ve had a lot of horrific things happen. Some of it’s driven by the pandemic, which we’re still recovering from. So, I think that people who are trying to pigeonhole me have an agenda, that they lost the election and now they want to have a do-over. So that has nothing to do with crime or the policies or the performance of the district attorney’s office.
I’m glad you bring up policies. Some folks are being critical of you choosing not to pursue special circumstances charges, without review. Could you talk about that?
Sure. Special circumstances are a terrible feature of the criminal justice system, and particularly in Alameda County. Over 71% of the people from Alameda County who were charged with special circumstances are Black. I believe it’s over 82% of the people from Alameda County who are serving time with special circumstances who were given that sentence under the age of 21 are Black.
So special circumstances has been a horrible racial tool utilized in Alameda County. And as an elected district attorney who came into office with a commitment to eradicate racial disparities and also with a mandate, a legal mandate by the Legislature to implement the Racial Justice Act. Certainly, one of the first things any reasonable district attorney would do and should do is to eliminate special circumstances.
And I think people have specifically been critical about that in terms of the Jasper Wu case, the toddler who was killed, and charging decisions around Delonzo Logwood, who was initially charged in a triple homicide. Can you speak to those cases?
I can’t speak to those cases in particular with respect to the prosecution decisions that were made. Each one of those cases is different with respect to the imposition of special circumstances. It’s the same. The statistics are the same. It’s what I just said. And the mandate is the same. We cannot continue to over-incarcerate and over-criminalize Black and brown people in this community.
Some of the things your critics are hitting you on, from not charging minors as adults to not pursuing special circumstances charges, you promised to do these things on the campaign trail, right?
And we won. We were elected to do what I’m doing.
These are election deniers. They lost the election. So they want to have a do-over. Yes. This is what people elected me to do. And the people who don’t, didn’t want that to happen. Their candidate lost, and so they want to have a second bite at the apple. And that’s not, that’s undemocratic. That’s not how democracy works. People get to vote and your vote matters. And that’s what’s fair. We won the election fair and square. So to say, well, we don’t like what she’s doing. You lost. I’m sorry, you did lose the election. We need to move on.
Let’s talk about the statement you recently published about the recall. You said it’s run by Republicans with an out-of-town agenda. And that there are some local figureheads who are part of this, with right-leaning politics.
More specifically, this is Brenda Grisham, whose son was killed, and Carl Chan, who was attacked in an act of alleged anti-Asian hate. They do have personal experiences of violence that shaped their worldview, right? Was that statement not dismissing those experiences, somewhat?
I think anyone, including myself, who has been a victim of crime in Alameda County deserves our compassion, our empathy. Certainly, when Ms. Grisham’s son was murdered in 2010, I was one of the people at that time that was challenging the failure of the Oakland Police Department to increase its homicide solving rate.
And so, to some extent, I’ve been on the front lines of justice in this community for 40 years, representing victims over and over.
And so, when I think about Brenda Grisham and Carl Chan, I know that I represented the family of Oscar Grant and stood with them for more than a decade calling for justice for Oscar Grant. I didn’t hear Brenda Grisham or Carl Chan in that movement when I represented the family of Will Sims and helped that family bury their son. He was murdered by white supremacists in Contra Costa County. I didn’t see Brenda Grisham at the service or the rally, and I didn’t hear Carl Chan when we marched from Santa Rita Jail to the BART Dublin station, BART because Jessica St. Louis died after she was released in the middle of the night. I didn’t hear Carl Chan say, “Justice for Jessica,” and I didn’t see Brenda Grisham when we marched.
So many cases of people who have lost loved ones in this community we have been fighting for. And the people who elected me know that. I know that those people in particular supported my opponent and they are upset that he lost, but he lost.
I remember you speaking publicly about some of the racism that you’re facing here in office. I wonder if you could tell folks about the recent racism that you’ve had to face here.
It’s not in the office. It’s those who have left the office claiming to be representatives of the community. Many of them don’t live here. And the movement of election deniers has been infested with racial bias. I have been called every Black name and identified as a Black woman and attacked as a Black woman by people who now, I guess, Brenda Grisham and Carl Chan are embracing.
Your opponents are seizing on a lot these days. Like recent reports of an investigation into the conduct of your chief deputy, Otis Bruce Jr., during his time in the Marin County District Attorney’s Office. I wonder if you could talk about that.
Well, I haven’t seen the report, but I do know that my predecessor, former District Attorney O’Malley, is working with the district attorney in Marin. And so, there’s an interesting connection that suddenly there’s this attack on Mr. Bruce, who’s been an exemplary public servant for 32 years. He is highly respected in Marin and he’s been extremely helpful to us here.
Nothing but professional, very kind and genuine to all of the employees that he supports and been very supportive of the deputies in his role as a head of our prosecution unit.
I’ve known Mr. Bruce for more than 30 years. And so, I take the attacks upon him as part of the people who want to challenge and undermine our administration. It’s all political and retaliation.
What do you think is the difference between how a recall will be fought here versus other places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, statewide. What’s different in Alameda County?