OC district attorney announces 'guiding principles' to attack racism in criminal justice system

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) -- Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced a set of "guiding principles'' Wednesday to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

"We as a society have engaged in systemic mass incarceration,'' Spitzer said. "As a prosecutor, I will stop it. We as a society have prosecuted people of color differently. As a prosecutor, I will stop it.'

"We cannot fix a systematic problem without a systematic approach," he said. "That approach must be thoughtful, thorough, and include different perspectives, different experiences, and different ideas. Justice is not evidenced by the longest sentence; justice is what is best for the individual, the victim, and society as a whole.''

Spitzer said some of the initiatives he wants to establish include:

-- A conviction integrity unit;
-- Recidivism reduction units "that address an individual's chances for success'';
-- Support efforts to have mentally ill defendants be diverted to mental health care to address "underlying issues'';
-- Support of a "dual 911 dispatch'' with dispatchers trained to handle emergency calls for psychiatric assistance;
-- Endorsing policies preventing law enforcement agencies from investigating officer-involved shootings involving their own officers; and
-- Bans on the use of carotid holds.

LA County DA George Gascn appears on Eyewitness Newsmakers
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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascòn talks to Adrienne Alpert on Eyewitness Newsmakers, which aired Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021.

The announcement drew mixed responses from defense attorneys and a potential challenger to Spitzer when he is up for re-election next year.

Humberto Guizar, an attorney who represents plaintiffs in excessive force cases, said "it sounds good, and if they're going to do that stuff then fine,'' but he urged Spitzer to support an independent commission to oversee officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.

Attorney Christian Contreras, who also works on excessive force cases, said Spitzer's announcement comes as a surprise.''

"While I commend Mr. Spitzer if he were genuine, Mr. Spitzer has continually taken a pro-police, mass incarceration position,'' Contreras said.

If Spitzer is "serious about reform, he would immediately issue directives similarly like" Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon.
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