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Santa Clara County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

The District Attorney and Law Enforcement

By Karyn Sinunu

Candidate for District Attorney; County of Santa Clara

This information is provided by the candidate
I pledge to be both independent from and collaborative with county-wide police departments and the Sheriff.
The District Attorney must be able to work closely with the police, with confidence and trust. At the same time, she is obligated to maintain independent judgment at all times. I will build on the solid foundation of collaboration that currently exists between my office and the police departments and Sheriff.

I am proud to have worked in collaboration with the 13 police chiefs and the Sheriff to create

  • fairer line-up procedures to accurately identify suspects,
  • best-practices for recording of in-custody, violent suspects,
  • meaningful guidelines for interrogations of mentally ill suspects
  • a first-of-its-kind investigative manual for child homicide and abuse cases, and
  • a county ordinance that permits law enforcement oversight of drug treatment facilities to ensure fair treatment of recovering addicts.

These recent innovations came about after I and others outside the police departments saw opportunities to improve police procedures. Our observations and suggestions were not immediately welcome. Making progress always requires diplomacy, collaboration and perseverance. I am proud to have seen these projects through to completion and adoption.

On another note, prosecuting police officers who commit crimes, on or off duty, is difficult, because it invariably tests our agencies' relationships. But the District Attorney cannot flinch from her obligation to the community at large and to the brother and sister officers serving with honor and distinction, who must be spared unfair taint from other officers' misconduct.

In the most sensitive situations in recent years, when police departments throughout the county have brought us their officer-involved cases, it was I who made the difficult charging decisions. It is no coincidence that I am the only candidate to endorse open hearings in officer-involved shootings.

When making the decision whether or not to charge a police officer with a crime, we consider all the relevant, admissible evidence and weigh that against the presumption of innocence and our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and ask: what is the likelihood of a jury verdict of guilty? We are mindful that jurors have an instinctive inclination to trust police officers and therefore are generally harder to convince that an officer has committed a crime.

So we are especially prudent in our charging decisions in police officer cases. And the results - 90% conviction rate - demonstrate that those charging decisions are well-considered.

In sum, I pledge to collaborate with law enforcement to continue to make innovative progress in the administration of justice and to make the tough, independent decisions necessary to protect the community.

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ca/scl Created from information supplied by the candidate: May 31, 2006 14:24
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