Study: 95% of elected prosecutors are white

Study: 95% of elected prosecutors are white

In case you missed it, here are some of my thoughts in a telephone interview on WPIX Channel 11 in NY on this study. Diversity in prosecution is critical to having a fair and balanced criminal justice system. Be sure to click on the link to watch the broadcast addressing this serious issue!

WPIX 11 New York

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NEW YORK – A new study by the Reflective Democracy Campaign shows little diversity among elected prosecutors. Just 4% are men of color, and 1% are women of color. 78% are white men.

“I think that excluding women and people of color from that really important function in the criminal justice system is just bound to lead to inequality,” said Brenda Choresi Carter, Director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign.

Prosecutors can charge a defendant with a felony, or bring no case at all. When negotiating plea deals, they can push for a heavy prison sentence or probation.

“We have to be mindful of the fact that we have a tremendous amount of power that we are not to abuse,” said Melba Pearson, President of the National Black Prosecutors Association.

In just two weeks, the NBPA will hold a jobs fair for young black lawyers.

“We do see…

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Diversity Discussions: The New York Times

Diversity Discussions: The New York Times

20140323-142740.jpgThis week, I was quoted in an article in the New York Times regarding a recent study that reveals 95% of elected prosecutors are white. As President of the National Black Prosecutors Association, I am proud to lead an organization that has been fighting to recruit and retain African American prosecutors for 32 years.  Diversity in the criminal justice system is one of the key components to  earning and maintaining the trust of the community. Read the article here.

Diversity Discussions….

Diversity Discussions….

20140519-151326-54806927.jpgBack in November, I had the honor and the privilege of speaking as President of the National Black Prosecutors Association on a roundtable at Harvard Law. Fellow participants included head prosecutors from around the country, and forward thinkers in the criminal justice world, led by the Vera Institute.  We discussed issues of racial disparity in sentencing, ways to ensure that everyone gets the same treatment for the same types of crimes/criminal history, and other ways to make our system better.  See my interview here on diversity and unconscious bias in the criminal justice system.

Diversity Discussions…

Diversity Discussions…

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In recent months, I have been asked regarding my opinions on issues confronting our nation regarding our criminal justice system.  I’d like to share some of these discussions with all of you, and give you the chance to weigh in.  My theme remains the same: diversity is a necessity.  There must be diversity among the actors in the criminal justice system in order for there to be balance within our system.  Perception is reality; critical messages can be lost if there is a perception that the system is unfair.

Political reporter Tony Pugh asked me what my thoughts were regarding the use of independent prosecutors to investigate and pursue cases involving police shootings.

“The true answer is to have diversity among the attorneys in prosecutors’ offices, and for prosecutors’ offices to continue working on their relationship with the communities they serve, so that there is trust and transparency in the justice process,” said Melba Pearson, the president of the National Black Prosecutors Association.

While an independent prosecutor may be a useful tool in some circumstances, “it isn’t necessarily the answer for all police shooting cases,” she said.

Some state prosecutors already have units or individual prosecutors dedicated to public officials, including police officers, who’ve allegedly committed crimes.

“This may be a good option to expand upon,” Pearson said.

Read the rest of the article here and weigh in!
M.
Knowledge Trumps Racism, Part II

Knowledge Trumps Racism, Part II

IFWT_Bill_De_Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio came under fire for regarding comments he made regarding what he has told his son about how to interact with law enforcement.

Mayor De Blasio, who is married to an African American woman and has a biracial son, stated in a recent interview:

“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country,” de Blasio went on. “And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”

The head of the New York City Police Union was infuriated, and stated that the Mayor “threw cops under the bus” and was not helping race relations.

Here’s the deal.

Mayor De Blasio a white man, and a parent, is speaking his truth.

He’s speaking of the discussion that thousands of African American parents have with their sons across the country on a daily basis.

He’s a responsible parent, making sure his child knows how to act appropriately in a police encounter. Be polite, don’t make any sudden movements, don’t do anything to escalate the situation.

He’s also being practical! As angry as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch may be, does he really want people making sudden movements in police encounters, creating situations where officers will have to draw their weapons?

I should hope not!

Mayor De Blasio’s statement is actually helping race relations…because when African Americans make similar statements, it can be viewed as an overreaction. “Their kids must be doing something bad.” “They’re just paranoid”

But the Mayor says it…this draws attention to the fact that this is a real issue.

So before dismissing his comments, listen.

Knowledge trumps racism.

Understand what the other side is saying. Mayor De Blasio is speaking his truth. So speak yours and let’s have a productive dialogue on how to move policing forward as opposed to “us” vs “them”.

Not all kids of color are bad; not all police officers are bad.  If we start from that premise, we may actually get somewhere!

See my list of my practical tips on interacting with law enforcement here.

Feel free to weigh in!

M.