San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar made headlines last month when it was announced that she would not be seeking endorsements or contributions from law enforcement unions as a way of promoting transparency.
And on Tuesday she took another step towards achieving that transparency by partnering with other district attorneys from around Northern California in announcing the creation of the Prosecutors Alliance of California – a progressive organization of current and past district attorneys that aims to achieve “modern and sustainable approaches to achieving safety and community health at the state and local level.”
Verber Salazar joined former San Francisco District Attorney Geroge Gascon, current San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton in announcing the creation of the national organization that is positioning itself as an alternative to organizations that have traditionally been deeply entrenched in the political and advocacy arms of law enforcement.
“A broad spectrum of political ideologies believe in a smaller, less punitive, and more equitable
system of justice,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “This is one
of the few issues in America’s discourse upon which Republicans and Democrats can find
common ground, and we welcome prosecutors from across the political spectrum to join us.
“All you need is the courage to challenge the status quo and the ability to reflect and grow.”
The announcement was the latest move by Verber Salazar, who ran unopposed in 2018 and won’t face election again until 2022, to emerge as a progressive voice for reform in the criminal justice system – continuing down a track that has included advocating for the expungement of minor marijuana-related offenses in the wake of California voters decision to legalize the drug for recreational use.
She has also instructed her deputy district attorneys not to see any additional, discretionary fines on top of mandatory punishments for minor offenses – citing the economic outlook as a result of COVID-19 and the fact that punitive court-related fines have been pushing local residents towards bankruptcy.
In the wake of a national conversation about law enforcement, the Prosecutors Alliance of California is actively calling for prosecutors to “cure the conflict” of interest that they feel exists when district attorneys accept money from police unions and then rule on cases involving police misconduct or line-of-duty shootings.
“When a prosecutor’s personal or political interests suggest the delay or denial to pursue a police officer may be motivated by a financial relationship with the involved officer, trust in our system quickly – and completely – dissolves,” the release by the organization said. “For this reason, the founding four members recently joined forces to call on the California State Bar to change the rules of professional responsibility to #CureTheConflict of interest that occurs when elected DAs take law enforcement union money and then review misconduct cases against the same unions’ members.”
The release announcing the formation of the new group specifically calls out the California District Attorneys Association – a group that Verber Salazar publicly left at the beginning of this year – for standing in opposition to the proposed rule change and having a board that is entirely made up of “elected prosecutors who have accepted and benefitted from police union money in their respective elections.”
While the new group was formed to advocate for policy changes affecting California residents, it has also attracted interest from prosecutors in Virginia and Missouri as well – likely tapping into a nationwide coalition of progressive prosecutors who are looking to make changes to the criminal justice system.
The group is identified by its website as a project of Tides Advocacy – the same criminal justice reform group that launched the website DumpCopCash.com last month. Verber Salazar was listed as one of the signers of that group’s mission statement.
For additional information about the group, visit www.prosecutorsalliance.org.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.