In his inaugural speech after¬†being sworn in today for his second term, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen highlighted reforms he's instituted¬†since taking office in 2011. He also focused on the agency's effort to¬†"build bridges" with the community, especially when dealing with "internal¬†divisions and conflicts that threaten our society."
"In the last four years, the District Attorney‚Äôs Office has endeavored to¬†build bridges, inch by inch, foot by foot, between ourselves and the people, who we serve," he¬†said inside¬†the County Government Center.
Rosen leads¬†the largest office of prosecutors north of Los Angeles, and he was introduced by newly elected San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a former county prosecutor himself. Supervisor Cindy Chavez emceed and Board President Dave Cortese made opening remarks.
Below is a copy of Rosen's¬†speech:
‚ÄúBRIDGES BUILD TRUST AND BRIDGES BUILD JUSTICE‚ÄĚ
My wife Amber ‚Äď thank you for everything and more.¬†My daughters Rachel and Nomi ‚Äď thank you for missing school to be¬†here, ‚Ä¶ or maybe you should thank me for that.¬†My parents Morrie and Harlene ‚Äď thank you for flying here from Los¬†Angeles to support me today, as you have my entire life.¬†Sadly, my mother in law, Eleanor Sax, and my father in law,¬†Professor Joseph Sax, passed away in the last year. We miss them.¬†Their loss is deeply felt. Their memory is a blessing to our family.¬†Michelle Speth, Sean Webby, Cynthia Sumida and Peter Jensen ‚Äď¬†thank you for all of the planning and logistics so that today‚Äôs¬†ceremony is smooth and seamless.¬†I want to thank Supervisor Cortese, Supervisor Chavez and Mayor¬†Liccardo for sharing this stage with me and participating in this¬†ceremony. Elections come and elections go, but our community¬†remains. Individuals win or lose elections, but the community always¬†wins, as long as everyone works together to solve problems and¬†serve the collective good.¬†As you can see from the people in these chambers, and watching on¬†closed circuit TVs in the hallway ‚Äď we have a cross section that spans¬†our society ‚Äď age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation,¬†progressive, centrist, conservative, labor, business ‚Äď this is our¬†community.¬†Thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to attend this¬†ceremony, and to attend by invitation, which meant that I did not¬†have to subpoena you, or ask Judge Chatman to issue a bench¬†warrant for your appearance.
2015 year marks the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War¬†and President Lincoln‚Äôs assassination in 1865. The Civil War was the¬†bloodiest and deadliest conflict in American history, when brother¬†fought brother, and more than 700,000 Americans died.¬†In 1858, then candidate for Senate, Abraham Lincoln, gave one of his¬†most important and well-known speeches in Springfield, Illinois,¬†where he declared,¬†‚ÄúA house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this¬†government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I¬†do not expect the Union to be dissolved ‚Äď I do not expect the house¬†to fall ‚Äď but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all¬†one thing or all the other.‚ÄĚ
One hundred years ago, in 1915, the corner stone was laid for what¬†became the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.¬†Fifty years ago, in 1965, another American hero, Dr. Martin Luther¬†King Jr., took up some of the unfinished goals of the Civil War, to¬†fight for Civil Rights, for all Americans, so that we could all be free.¬†Dr. King believed that ‚Äúthe arc of the moral universe is long, but it¬†bends toward justice.‚ÄĚ¬†Today in America, we don‚Äôt have a Civil War, but we do have internal¬†divisions and conflicts that threaten our society, our Union, and¬†inhibit our ability to live out the values expressed in our Declaration¬†of Independence,¬†‚ÄúWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created¬†equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain¬†unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit¬†of Happiness.‚ÄĚ
Here‚Äôs the question: How do we heal divisions? How do we end¬†conflicts? How do we build trust? How do we increase justice? How¬†do get from where we are, to where we need to be? The answer ‚Äď¬†we build bridges.¬†The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges help to connect the Bay Area.¬†Bridges allow for the flow of people, commerce, ideas, values and¬†culture. Bridges weave together communities, that would otherwise¬†be separated from one another. Bridges change our conception of¬†reality, and of what is possible. As we travel back and forth over a¬†bridge, we feel connected to, and a part of, what is on both sides of¬†that bridge.
There are other kinds of bridges, in addition to the physical kind.¬†People can be bridges. Shared values like trust, justice, respect,¬†equality, compassion, and love can also be bridges.¬†In the last four years, the District Attorney‚Äôs Office has endeavored to¬†build bridges, inch by inch, foot by foot, between ourselves and the¬†People, who we serve.
Bridges To The Communities We Serve
With the support of the Board of Supervisors, we now have three¬†Community Prosecutors ‚Äď Deputy District Attorneys Josue Fuentes,¬†Johnny Gogo (yes, that is really his name), and Alisha Schoen. Their¬†mission is to help solve problems in poor and underserved¬†neighborhoods, including graffiti, vandalism, gang activity, blight, and¬†truancy. Left unattended, these problems fester and grow into¬†violent criminal acts.¬†Our Community Prosecutors accomplish their missions by partnering¬†with police officers, neighborhood leaders, community based nonprofit¬†organizations and schools. Through their collective efforts,¬†neighborhoods will be transformed, and communities will see¬†prosecutors more fully, as real people, and our prosecutors will see¬†everyone in our community more fully, as real people. Johnny,¬†Alisha, and Josue, please stand up. You three are bridges, and we¬†know you will succeed. You three are just the start. We hope to¬†have more Community Prosecutors and more bridges in the coming¬†years.
Deputy District Attorney Paola Estanislao‚Äôs mission is to fight human¬†trafficking, also referred to as modern day slavery, which includes¬†labor and sex slavery.¬†A little while ago, a teenage girl named Jolie disclosed that she met¬†Defendant Robert Shears when she was a 15 year old runaway from¬†a foster home. Shears offered her money for a manicure but stated¬†that she had to ‚Äúrun that [money] back.‚ÄĚ For months, Shears forced¬†Jolie to work for him by having sex with strangers. She earned¬†$11,000 and Shears took all the money. In an attempt to escape Shears, Jolie lied to him about having a¬†‚Äúdate,‚ÄĚ or job. When Shears learned about the lie, he slapped Jolie,¬†choked her, and forced her to walk the streets at 5 a.m. to solicit for¬†prostitution. Jolie eventually fled and found a police officer who used¬†her cell phone to identify, locate and arrest Shears. When police¬†showed her a photo of Shears, Jolie started crying.
Shears was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in state prison.¬†Leigh Frazier was the trial prosecutor. Leigh Frazier and Paola¬†Estanislao, please stand up. You are bridges, you are lifelines to¬†vulnerable victims like Jolie, so that we can save our children and¬†lock up the traffickers who prey on them. Thank you!
For several years, the DA‚Äôs Office has run a program called the¬†Parent Project, for parents of teenagers who are at risk of using¬†drugs, dropping out of school, committing crimes, or joining a¬†criminal street gang. It is a 12-week class, taught by prosecutors,¬†police officers, probation officers, and others. The program helps¬†parents become better parents, and strengthens families. We offer¬†the classes in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. More than 2,500¬†parents have graduated from the Parent Project. Most importantly,¬†children whose parents have completed the program are much less¬†likely to commit crimes.
Let me tell you about one such child. After a recent Parent Project¬†class, a mom and dad went home, gathered all of their son‚Äôs red¬†clothing ‚Äď his shirts, hats, bandanas ‚Äď and threw it all away. We all¬†know that it is not that simple to leave a gang. Several weeks later,¬†at the Parent Project graduation, the boy sat in the audience as his¬†mom and dad got their hard-earned completion certificates. His head¬†was down. He didn‚Äôt want to be there. The teachers tried to¬†convince him just to look at his parents. Then, at the very end of the¬†ceremony, this angry young man began to weep and he began to¬†talk. ‚ÄúI want to stop hurting my parents. I want to leave the gang.¬†But, I don‚Äôt know how. I need help,‚ÄĚ he said. He was sobbing.¬†Everyone was sobbing. Gloria Maturino runs the Parent Project.¬†Gloria, please stand up. You, and all the Parent Project teachers, are¬†bridges to a better future for our children. Thank you.
In the DA‚Äôs Office, we successfully prosecute more than 42,000¬†criminal cases a year, and send hundreds of men and women to jail¬†and prison each year. Most of these inmates will serve their¬†sentences and get released back into our community. These inmates¬†are not the ‚Äúother.‚ÄĚ They are our brothers and sisters, mothers and¬†fathers, friends and neighbors.
When we build bridges, we expand who is part of our community.¬†So, last year, we tried something new with the Parent Project. We¬†taught the course to a group of women in jail, while they served their¬†sentences. This year, we hope to offer the program to male inmates.
Family Justice Centers
Domestic violence victims are predominantly women, often with¬†children they are raising. For too long, these women had to travel to¬†many different locations and bureaucracies, often miles apart, to get¬†essential information and assistance, like:
1) My boyfriend beats me and my children. I‚Äôm afraid to go home.
Is there a safe place where my children and I can go? A place where
he can‚Äôt find us? Yes, there is.
2) My husband says that if I call the police and tell them he punches
me with brass knuckles, the police will deport me because I am
undocumented? Is that true? (No, it‚Äôs not.)
3) How do I get a restraining order to keep him away from me and
my children? We can show you how.
A Family Justice Center houses a comprehensive multi-disciplinary,¬†multi-agency team of family violence professionals and service¬†providers under one roof. Last year, we created one Family Justice¬†Center in Morgan Hill to serve the South County and one Center in¬†Sunnyvale to serve the North County. In each building, victims can¬†talk with prosecutors, police officers, family law or immigration¬†attorneys, shelter providers, victim advocates, and counselors.
These two Family Justice Centers are bridges that help victims and¬†their families escape from abusive relationships and break the cycle¬†of violence. Thank you prosecutors Steve Lowney, James Gibbons Shapiro,¬†Brian Welch, and Cindy Hendrickson. Thank you¬†Supervisors Wasserman and Simitian. Next year, we want a Family¬†Justice Center in San Jose.
Before I became District Attorney, I was a Deputy District Attorney¬†who prosecuted burglary, drug trafficking, rape, child molestation,¬†and murder. I prosecuted and convicted hundreds of defendants¬†who were then sent to state prison, often for life sentences. I¬†wondered what became of these men. One day, a defense attorney¬†I know gave me a copy of a newspaper published each month by¬†inmates at San Quentin State Prison. I was struck by the quality of¬†the publication and decided to visit these men.
Last year, I drove up to San Quentin, located just across the Golden¬†Gate Bridge in Marin County. After I entered the prison gates, I met¬†with the three dozen inmates who publish the San Quentin News.¬†They told me their names, what county they were from, and what¬†crimes they had committed. The crimes ranged from armed robbery,¬†to assault with a deadly weapon, to murder.¬†I asked why they created this newspaper. They said that they had¬†grown and were trying to express themselves with words, not fists.¬†They wanted people on the outside to know that they could create¬†something informative, creative, professional and interesting. Even¬†though they were behind bars, they still saw themselves as part of¬†society. They wanted to communicate with young people living¬†outside the prison walls, in tough neighborhoods, to encourage them¬†to make better choices so they didn‚Äôt end up in San Quentin.
These¬†prisoners were trying to be a bridge to a community on the outside¬†that they will never live in. They demonstrated the strength of that¬†most human desire to build bridges and connect with other people.¬†The San Quentin inmates published a very positive article about my¬†visit in their next issue. Hold up the paper. In fact, I liked this article¬†a lot more than some other articles written about me.
Officer Involved Shooting Protocol
There is probably no time more in need of bridges than the aftermath¬†of a death caused by police officers.¬†Before I became District Attorney in 2011, our office brought¬†instances where police officers killed individuals, to secret grand¬†juries. If the grand jury did not indict the officer, the transcript was¬†sealed and the public never found out what happened and why the¬†officer wasn‚Äôt charged. This was unfair to the officer and to the¬†community. After all, everyone is suspicious of what goes on behind¬†closed doors.
Transparency and information can also be bridges. Now, if the DA‚Äôs¬†Office does not charge a police officer with a crime after a fatal¬†shooting, I prepare and release a very detailed report to the public.¬†This report lays out all the facts, the law, and why the officer‚Äôs¬†actions were lawful. Police officers have a difficult and dangerous¬†job. If a person tries to kill a police officer, such a person wouldn‚Äôt¬†think twice about killing you or me. Of course, it is a tragedy¬†whenever a human being is killed by the police, even when the¬†officer‚Äôs actions were necessary and justified. And the public is¬†entitled to know what happened, why it happened, and why the DA¬†is not filing charges.
The day before I release the report, I speak to both the police¬†department and the decedent‚Äôs family, and let them know the¬†report‚Äôs conclusions. By speaking with both the police and the¬†family, and by issuing a thorough and exhaustive report, I am trying¬†to build a bridge between law enforcement and the community, to¬†bring people together, during moments of acute turmoil and conflict.
Bridges like the ones I have outlined this afternoon, are essential,¬†because public safety is based upon trust among police officers,¬†prosecutors and the communities we serve. Citizens must trust¬†police officers and prosecutors to report crimes and testify in court.
Police officers and prosecutors must build bridges to earn the¬†community‚Äôs trust and then repay the community with justice in¬†return.¬†It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your District Attorney.¬†Thank you for all of your support and good wishes. A wise man once¬†said, that the whole world is like a very narrow bridge, and the most¬†important thing is not to be afraid. We here in Silicon Valley are not¬†fearful or timid. We are bold and confident, strong and creative.¬†Together, let‚Äôs build more bridges, more trust, and more justice.