Declined to Sign

These prosecutors declined to sign on to the letter for a variety of reasons. Some of them did state, however, that they have not or will not accept law enforcement union contributions or endorsements.

I am not willing to sign on to the letter that paints all police unions as obstacles to meaningful criminal justice reform because our local union has been willing to work with us to find common ground on issues of reform. I do, however agree that accepting financial contributions from unions can create the appearance of a conflict of interest—and in certain instances, an actual conflict of interest. For that reason, I am not accepting campaign contributions from any police union.

As a progressive district attorney, I have not received any donations from police unions and do not anticipate that I will receive a police union endorsement. I agree that receipt of police union campaign donations may create a conflict of interest in prosecuting police misconduct cases due to the fact that some police unions fund legal representation for officers who are accused of misconduct. Thus, I will not accept donations from police unions.

Prudence is always required when accepting donations and endorsements. However, I disagree with the proposition that acceptance of a campaign contribution or endorsement always suggests that a prosecutor is aligned with the values and interest of the donor or endorser. As an elected district attorney, I am obligated to seek justice and I will never be beholden to any donor or endorser in pursuit of justice.

Accordingly, I suggest the following modification to your Joint Statement: “Campaign endorsements and contributions can create perceptions. They suggest to some citizens that the candidate-in this case, a prosecutor seeking election-aligns with the values and interests of the donor or endorser. And they may create a perceived (if not actual) impression that the elected official is beholden to that group. So what are the values and interests of police unions that elected prosecutors may be perceived as aligning with?”

We will decline signing the letter, but want to make clear that he has not and will not accept law enforcement contributions to his campaign this cycle.

As far as I know, Georgia and particularly Gwinnett County do not have police unions so the question for me is moot. I’m not declining to answer but I’m also not prepared to answer yes or no except to say that I don’t expect an endorsement from a police union in my current campaign for the reason I stated above not because I don’t have the support of my local law enforcement.

In three statewide campaigns, I’ve never received an endorsement from a police union.  Considering the reform demands I’ve made, it is unlikely that it will ever even be a consideration.

However, I’m uncomfortable with the binary worldview of this proposed public statement, and it serves to further isolate law enforcement from the communities they serve — President Obama once urged us to reject “false choices.”  With respect, I don’t think I can join your statement.  I do hope you will join me in attempting to win approval of meaningful reforms in the General Assembly, and hope for continued engagement.  Your Blueprint makes many good arguments.

County Attorney Escamilla left a voicemail message on August 5, 2020, stating that he is retiring so he will not be accepting campaign contributions or endorsements from anyone.

As for signing on to the Joint Statement, I have some reservations.  Here’s what the statement says:

Campaign endorsements and contributions send a message. They tell citizens that the candidate—in this case, a prosecutor seeking election—aligns with the values and interests of the donor or endorser. But what are the values and interests of police unions?

The question is answered as if all police unions have the same values and interests.  Police unions, according to this statement, oppose reasonable reforms, rally behind blatantly criminal police officers, and believe our communities should maintain harmful, broken systems that cause immense pain and injustice.  Of course it’s blatantly untrue that all police unions have these values and interests.  All police unions should not be tarred with the same brush.  Some do have these values and some do not.  How about the National Black Police Association that, for example, endorsed legalization of marijuana possession in California, saying “prohibition takes a toll on people of color across the country.”  Is that an endorsement for maintaining harmful, broken systems?

Turning to local police organizations/unions in Albemarle County, I would say the Joint Statement’s description of their values and interests is inaccurate.  I did not get police endorsements when I ran for office last November, much less contributions, and if I run again in four years, I would not expect to get police endorsements or contributions.  But if I say up front I’m not taking police endorsements, that cuts me out from participating in the usual public conversations/forums with police organizations that are considering endorsements.  Those conversations are worth it, because they expose the community to the values and interests of the police and the candidates.  Police public forums generate a lot of public interest.

To the extent I disagree with the police, I am happy to engage with them in public dialogue to advance my own values and interests and to call the police out when I believe they are wrong.  At the end of the day, I can confidently say I’m not getting police endorsements or contributions, but to cut off public dialogue and community engagement by refusing at the outset to participate in the process is counterproductive, especially when the justification for refusal is an inaccurate understanding of my local organizations’ values and interests.  I don’t think this position compromises my independence, makes me a police stooge, or puts me on the “political payroll” of police unions, as the Joint Statement indicates.

So, no, I don’t want to sign the Joint Statement.  I object to your recording me as a no without explanation.

I have not taken nor sought contributions nor endorsements from the local (MPD) police union, and will not do so in the future.

During a phone call on July 17, 2020, Prosecutor Worthy stated that she does not and has not accepted police union money, but was unwilling to sign letter.

First, I have never taken monetary donations from an FOP in any of my three elections. In my first election, the FOP of one law enforcement agency endorsed both me and my competitor. After that first election, my very public announcement that I would not accept affidavits from officers with impeachment issues (often referred to as “Giglio lists”) drew the ire of the same FOP who then blasted me in the media and hired lawyers to do the same thing. No one paying attention in my jurisdiction is laboring under the notion that my interests and that of the local FOP are “aligned.” 

Second, by your logic, anyone who donates to my campaign sends a signal to the public that their (the donor’s) values and mine are in sync. I’ve had donations from defense attorneys and civil lawyers who clearly have different interests. But they think I’d be a good DA. 

Third, I agree that the role of police unions nationally is ripe for discussion in the context of justice reform (namely, the power they hold to contest discipline of officers). That said, I do not understand the decision to use of your collective energy on the issue of endorsements. That strikes me as one of the least effective demands you could make to effect lasting and substantive change to the criminal justice system. 

I’m the chair of my state’s criminal justice reform commission and have been since the summer of 2019. I plan to show my commitment to improving the criminal justice system system by the actions I take, the changes to legislation that I champion, the testimony I provide the Kansas legislature and the way my office is run. There are a great deal of work and many difficult discussions ahead. 

While I don’t plan to ask for either an endorsement or cash from the local FOP (and I’d be stunned if they offered either), I am also not interested in signing your commitment under the threat that my compliance or lack thereof to your demand will be broadcast to others.

No thanks.

I did not solicit endorsements from the unions or elected officials when I ran for office in 2016 or 2020. Further, in an effort to maintain the independence of the State Attorney’s Office, I also instituted a policy that I do not endorse political candidates. Nevertheless, how other elected officials in other jurisdictions choose to run their political campaigns or use their political power is their own prerogative.

I am not accepting money from law enforcement, but at no time has any contribution from any one, or any organization, influenced my professional decisions.

I have heard the pros and the cons of this commitment you seek from District Attorneys.  I have been part of the discussion with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin who leads the effort to have prosecutors join this commitment; he described its purpose as an effort to insure impartiality and independence in the investigation and review of officer involved shootings and critical incidents..  However, in California there is presently proposed legislation in the California Legislature allowing these cases to be handled by the California Attorney General’s Office.  This is Assembly Bill 1506 offered by Assembly McCarty.  I am not declining or supporting the commitment you seek until I see what happens with AB 1506 in the California Legislature.  Thus it would be a false representation to issue the graphic you show until I make a decision following legislative action by the California Legislature.

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