DA vows to not solicit police union endorsement

San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar is not up for reelection this year.

But if she does seek office again in 2022, it appears that she will be doing so without the endorsement or financial support of any of the police unions in San Joaquin County.

On Monday, The Justice Collaborative – a project of the San Francisco-based Tides Advocacy Fund – announced that Verber Salazar had signed on to a letter of prosecutors from around the country that have declared that they will not seek either endorsements or contributions from police unions for current or upcoming campaigns.

The announcement came less than a month after Verber Salazar made waves by announcing that her office would no longer seek financial penalties for low-level offenses such as speeding and other misdemeanor crimes.

As social justice conversations continue to dominate headlines around the country – spurred largely by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this summer – the letter seeks to create separation between the offices that commonly review police misconduct charges and the entities that represent the officers that may one day be before the court.

“We cannot ignore the reasonable skepticism our communities have about our ability to objectively review an instance of police misconduct because we accepted political and financial support from an organization representing the person whose conduct is under review,” the letter states. “When police misconduct occurs, it is our responsibility to consider those cases with the same objectivity and analysis we apply to any other case.

“We recognize now that being on the ‘political payroll of police unions is imply inappropriate and unethical.”

The letter had signatories from established prosecutors like Chesa Boudin of San Francisco – the Public Defender that became the city’s top prosecutor in 2018 – while Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley was listed in the “declined to sign” section of the group’s website with the further explanation that he already does not accept contributions from law enforcement agencies.

Arguably the most well-known prosecutor in the country – New York City’s Cyrus Vance – was also named on the “decline to sign” list but reiterated that he will not be accepting contributions from law enforcement entities this campaign cycle.

Locally, the decision to sign-on to the letter was not well-received by the Manteca Police Officers Association who rebuked her position even though they no longer donate to pollical campaigns.

“We wholeheartedly disagree with Tori’s opinion in the matter – using her logic prosecutors should not take any endorsement or contribution from anyone,” the union, headed by Ian Osborn, said in a statement. “Accepting these donations could mean that she owes those who contributed something.

“The MPOA decided several years ago to not donate to political campaigns. We find out money is better spent in town helping the less fortunate and underprivileged.”

A copy of the letter is listed on the website that launched Monday – DumpCopCash.com – and specifies that the aim of the movement is to improve the transparency between elected prosecutors and the communities they serve.

“We hear the resounding calls for us to do better by those we serve,” the letter stated. “Many steps remain, but one concrete and immediate way we intend to do better is by declining nay campaign endorsements or contributions made by a law enforcement union.

“For us – and for our communities – it just isn’t worth it.”

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