21 Oct Los Angeles County’s District Attorney’s Race
By Community Coalition’s Member-Led Political Education Committee:
Pastor Byron Smith
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is dedicated to protecting our community through the fair and ethical pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of crime victims’ rights. The DA decides whether or not someone will have charges filed against them and how severe those charges will be. Those crimes include:
- Drug crimes
- Environmental crimes
- Violent crimes
- Police abuse/corruption/killings
Through their positions, district attorneys frame how crime is defined. They can choose how they enforce laws passed by California or by voters, such as Prop 47, Prop 57, legalization of marijuana, etc. In addition, the DA of Los Angeles influcences the culture among prosecutors by rewarding or refusing to punish leniency, and by ensuring a consistent pursuit of justice.
What power do District Attorneys have?
The DA alone decides WHO is deserving of jail or a prison sentence, WHO will have charges dismissed or WHO is instead routed into a program to help rebuild their life. This impacts:
- Youth: DA can push young people into incarceration or give a or practice restorative justice which affords a second chance,
- Police: DA can investigate officer-involved shootings or instances of abuse, and can hold them accountable,
- Immigration: DAs can trigger deportation proceedings or can use their power in a way that keeps families together and,
- Mental Illness/Substance Abuse: DAs can send people with mental illness or substance abuse issues to prison/jail, or provide rehabilitation, community mental health services.
Additional Tasks under the DA Position
- The DA will decide how to spend tax dollars,
- They can also offer plea deals, which is an agreement that a person will plead guilty in order to receive less jail time,
- They decide how they will enforce new laws, like Prop 47 and the legalization of marijuana, and
- They can publicly support or oppose legislation that is being voted on or in the legislative process.
Why Does It Matter For South LA?
- This is the “Single Most Important DA Race in the Country” because California sets precedents for the entire country,
- LA County has the biggest jail system in the country,
- Largest prosecutor’s office in the country, and
- County has highest rate of police shootings than any other county.
The DA Race is crucial for South LA because a vast majority of people incarcerated are Black and Brown folks from neighborhoods like South LA. DAs across the country have the power to address the mass incarceration of communities of color, or sustain it as it stands. In addition, the DA position is crucial to responding to the current climate around police brutality and state-sanctioned violence. This is even more important for LA County considering that we have some of the highest-profile police violence cases in the country. The elected LA County District Attorney will have the opportunity to bring accountability to cases of police violence that continue to happen in our communities.
NOTES FROM THE MEMBERS
What is the next DA’s platform?
- Are they open to restorative justice?
- Do they know the community’s needs?
- Will they engage with the community?
- Will they hold officers responsible when involved in officer-related shootings or misconduct cases?
Bottom Line: We need to look at each candidates’ record to answer the questions above. Whomever is elected on November 3rd, it will require us a community members to hold them accountable. This will lead to the change needed in our community.