As County Attorney, I will ensure that the primary focus of our office will be on advocating on behalf of victims of crime. Without a prosecutor standing up for and fighting on behalf of crime victims, the voice of this vulnerable and often silenced population would sometimes never be heard. We realize that in every case, our primary responsibility is to see that justice is done. Justice unquestionably requires that the voices of the aggrieved and suffering genuine victims of crime be heard in court. We will never shirk or hide from this solemn obligation, we will embrace it and put this duty at the forefront of every case.
As County Attorney, I understand that one of our most important roles is to keep the community safe. When I become County Attorney, our top priority will be the prosecution of violent crime, the type of crime that keeps us awake at night, that causes us to still keep our doors locked and defenses up. We will dedicate our collective energy to prosecute violent offenders like domestic abusers, child abusers and offenders who kill, rob, injure, threaten and intimidate other citizens. We will also hold those accountable that engage in the type of reckless and dangerous behavior that compromise the safety of our citizens as a whole, including intoxicated and reckless drivers and those that consciously decide to elude police and endanger all of us.
Growing up in Cedar Rapids, I was taught as a kid to always smile and wave to police and thank them for their service. I have a long-standing respect and appreciation for police that has only been reinforced during my 21 years as a prosecutor.
That being said, I acknowledge that there are people in this community that have a different feeling toward police. As County Attorney, I will do everything I can to support law enforcement in their efforts to earn and maintain the trust of the people they serve and will do what I can to help everyone foster a healthy and positive relationship with our police.
When we need help and protection, we look to our police to provide it for us. This is the way it should be. I’ve prosecuted cases where police officers have entered into dangerous and highly volatile situations to save a victim from ongoing harm or even death. I’ve prosecuted cases where police have de-escalated chaotic scenes and prevented egregious violence from occurring. I’ve been involved in cases where the quick response of police on the scene of a crime has saved people’s lives. I’ve seen the strong bond police officers make with the victims, witnesses and public they serve when they pour their hearts into their cases.
Without police, who will be there for victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, homicide and hate crimes? Who will seize illegally possessed guns from our streets? Who will keep drunk drivers off the road? Who will protect protestors from violence from hate groups? As County Attorney, I will continue our strong, symbiotic relationship with the police departments of Linn County. We will continue to be there to consult with them regarding ongoing criminal investigations and utilize their experience and expertise to see through our cases together. We will continue to provide ongoing training to law enforcement as issues arise and upon their request. I believe that the stronger the relationship is between prosecutors and police, the more open, honest and frank conversation we can have with our law enforcement partners to commend them when we see them do well and if necessary, critique them when we see a need for improvement or accountability. We would hope they would be as open and honest with us when they see the same.
It has become abundantly clear that long-term, or even repeated incarceration for minor or lower-level offenses has not been effective in lowering crime rates, achieving justice for victims, protecting the community or rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders into society. We cannot incarcerate away the root causes of crime in our communities. There’s a balance that can and must be struck between incarceration and rehabilitation in our criminal justice system. Any prosecutor, judge or professional that still believes incarceration is the only answer to crime control and public safety is not being honest and genuine.
As County Attorney, I will support ongoing efforts at intermediate sanctions and community corrections that emphasize rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration for minor or low-level offenses. I will also take it a step further and proactively implement new, cutting-edge programs that have proven to be successful in combating crime and reducing mass incarceration including diversion programs aimed at low-level marijuana offenders, habitual substance abuse addicts and those with debilitating mental health diagnoses. I will implement policies that put restitution and restorative justice on the forefront of resolving low-level financial crimes rather than lengthy sentences of jail and court supervision, when possible.
As County Attorney, I will also be an ally of the movement for racial equality.. Calls for police and prosecution reform are now taking front and center in the movement for racial equality but data on income and asset inequality, disproportionate incarceration rates, unequal access to health insurance and housing, destruction and pollution of the environment in urban centers with a high concentration of minority populations and as of late, the grave statistics that reveal that black people are suffering at a higher rate from the effects of the pandemic are also all indisputable and stoic facts that we must acknowledge and address together. Inequality is rampant in our communities and we do ourselves no service by continuing to look the other way and even less service blaming police for problems they did not create and they cannot fix. Although we call them first responders, police are often last responders and encounter people who have been living lives of despair long before they encounter police.
I hope that the rejuvenation of the civil rights movement that we have seen emerge this past couple of years not only leads to an honest discussion over criminal justice reform but progress on all these indicators of systemic racism in America.
My position on racial equality should not be read separately from my position on supporting law enforcement because unlike what is being portrayed in the media and used by national politicians to divide us, the two positions are not mutually exclusive; indeed, they are mutually supportive. We need to talk about investing more in addressing some of those long-standing disparities and societal ills that are caused by institutional racism. But I submit we should also acknowledge the good police do and then we should decide who we want our police to be and what roles we want them to fulfill for society. We expect police to solve all the societal ills that policymakers have avoided for far too long.
As a prosecutor and a son of parents who idolized John Kennedy and MLK, Jr., I support the cause of civil rights AND I support the police. These two fundamental aspects of what I support and who I fight beside for the cause of justice have made me who I am today and is a source of pride for me in the service I provide to the public.
Prosecutors like me talk a lot about the “interests of justice.” Safe communities, the equal administration of justice and a relationship of trust between those that enforce our laws and those who are meant to be protected by those laws are all in the interests of justice. Police and civil rights leaders experience a common antagonist in their quest for a safer and more equitable community, offenders that commit violent crimes and endanger the safety of families and neighborhoods.
If I was able to put together a team that could best provide a safe and equitable society, it would be made up of civil rights leaders and police working together.