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Pamela Price Gets it Wrong – Pacific Research Institute

Pamela Price Gets it Wrong

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On July 17, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price said, “the DA’s role has really no impact on crime”.  In fact, a District Attorney is the chief law enforcement officer of the county.

Oakland’s social, economic, and criminal justice challenges are well known.  Lost jobs, expensive housing, poor performing schools, and a crime problem that exceeds neighboring cities are constant challenges. However, a recent surge in crime shows violent crime is up 14 percent, rapes are up 18 percent, robberies are up 18 percent, burglaries are up 26 percent, carjackings up 4 percent, and vehicle thefts are up 36 percent.  Only homicides are down a scant 2 percent.  

These statistics are bad enough, but the personal stories and video footage of brazen and violent crimes have galvanized the community.

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This has compelled the president of the Oakland Chapter of the NAACP, Cynthia Adams, and Bishop Bob Jackson of Oakland’s largest church, Acts Full Gospel to declare:

Failed leadership, including the movement to defund the police, our District Attorney’s unwillingness to charge and prosecute people who murder and commit life threatening serious crimes, and the proliferation of anti-police rhetoric have created a heyday for Oakland criminals. If there are no consequences for committing crime in Oakland, crime will continue to soar.

Their statement comes on the heels of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s April 2023 office directive wherein she instructed her staff to no longer charge firearm or gang enhancements except in exceptional circumstances, and not without supervisorial approval, as well as to never charge a “life without parole” or LWOP under any circumstances.

That directive, in combination with California’s judicial interpretation of Prop 57, means that without firearms or gang enhancements, suspects convicted of murder will potentially serve only 66 percent of a 25-to-life sentence, or just 16.5 years.

What exactly is an “exceptional” circumstance is not defined in the directive and one would imagine will be the subject of some debate within the office – or maybe it won’t.

Consider that Pamela Price has recently charged a former deputy district attorney and prosecutor of the year Butch Ford under the Business and Professions Code for disagreeing with Price’s prosecution of an Oakland police officer charged with manslaughter for shooting a suspect.

Such is the fate of prosecutors with whom she disagrees.

Then on July 17, DA Price was quoted as saying “the DA’s role has really no impact on crime”.

In fact, a District Attorney is the chief law enforcement officer of the county and according to the California District Attorneys Association, their duty is to “…protect the community he or she is elected to serve. District Attorneys represent the public and endeavor to improve public safety by prosecuting those who threaten the well-being of the community and its citizens by breaking the law.”

More than that, a DA’s role is that of a leader.  California’s 58 elected district attorneys serve a unique role that cuts across jurisdictional lines and provide consistent policies to their county’s law enforcement agencies as well as the community at large.  Since they are elected, they also represent the will of the voters. Their priorities also allocate a system of limited financial resources – making decisions as to where to prioritize those resources.

Price may not wish to exert her authority in pursuit of a dangerous policy agenda, but there’s no question that DA’s do have an impact on crime.  Unfortunately, in Price’s case, the people of Alameda County know to their detriment their DA’s impact crime.

Just ask City of Oakland  Police Services Manager S. Nicole Freeman if a DA has no impact on crime.  Ms. Freeman’s grim job is to list Oakland’s crimes and victims.  Where in the movie Schindler’s List, Itzak Stern’s laboriously typed list “was life.” In Alameda County, Freeman’s list is something else.  Unfortunately for local residents, the list is victimization, harm and – in too many tragic cases – death.

Steve Smith is a senior fellow in urban studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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