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’s 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:
“BRIDGES BUILD TRUST AND BRIDGES BUILD JUSTICE”
My wife Amber – thank you for everything and more. My daughters Rachel and Nomi – thank you for missing school to be here, … or maybe you should thank me for that. My parents Morrie and Harlene – 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 – thank you for all of the planning and logistics so that today’s 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 – we have a cross section that spans our society – age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, progressive, centrist, conservative, labor, business – 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’s 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, “A 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 – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
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 “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Today in America, we don’t 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, “We 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.”
Here’s 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 – 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’s 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 – 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’s 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 “run that [money] back.” 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 “date,” 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’s 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’s red clothing – his shirts, hats, bandanas – 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’t 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. “I want to stop hurting my parents. I want to leave the gang. But, I don’t know how. I need help,” 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’s 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 “other.” 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’m afraid to go home.
Is there a safe place where my children and I can go? A place where
he can’t 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’s 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’t 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’t 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’s 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’s actions were lawful. Police officers have a difficult and dangerous job. If a person tries to kill a police officer, such a person wouldn’t 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’s 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’s family, and let them know the report’s 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’s 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’s build more bridges, more trust, and more justice.