One of the most important elections in Westchester County this year is the race of District Attorney. We are encouraging all voters, but especially persons of color to take advantage of the chance to rethink a key part of the county’s criminal justice system. With the national protest and uprising over the killing of African-Americans by law enforcement, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the stakes are high.
And yet, not everyone in Westchester County is aware of what a district attorney does. There’s a general understanding that the DA’s office is the prosecutorial arm of the court system, bringing charges against those who break the law. But the job requires more than just being an agent of the law; when maximized to its creative potential, the District Attorney can introduce propositions, institute criminal justice reform measures, and change the structure of how we respond to marginalized populations who end up in jail.
Westchester is one of the counties in the nation that elects its district attorney; more commonly, they are appointed. There are obvious advantages to this: Voters get to decide which candidate best meets their values, and, once elected, those candidates feel the pressure to deliver on their campaign promises and keep their constituents happy if they want to run for reelection. When they don’t we can protest at the ballot box.
A district attorney who understands the racial and economic disparities in the system could help to solve that problem by using the prosecutorial discretion that comes with the office.
A community-focused DA would make sure the charges are commensurate with the crime, working to assure that black defendants with records similar to their white counterparts are not overcharged.
A community-focused DA could recommend or seek pre-trial alternatives other than county prisons when the situation warrants leniency. A community-focused DA could seek to use his office to uplift Westchesterians rather than advance his or her political career.
We need a community-focused DA, and it’s up to us to get one.
The black community cannot afford to vote for a District Attorney just because established politicians endorse him. We cannot afford to vote for a district attorney because he has the glossiest commercials. And given the Police Union’s animosity toward the movement to stop police from killing unarmed blacks, African-Americans must look warily at anyone the police unions endorse.
This is no time for politics as usual. The district attorney’s office is too important to our community, and the stakes are too high for our children.
African-Americans must not stay home on Tuesday, June 23rd [or neglect to request and mail in their absentee ballots] and watch someone else choose the city’s top law enforcement officer. If we do, we will have lost just a little more freedom. All the momentum and attention to the systematic racism in our criminal justice system, we gained with these national protest will all be for naught. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.
With that said Black Westchester’s People Before Politics Radio Show interview the two candidates for District Attorney and we post both interviews below to give you one last look at the candidates so you can make an informed decision when casting your vote!
Anthony Scarpino is Westchester County’s 34th District Attorney. Elected to the office in 2016 is running for re-election. It took a while to lockdown Scarpino to an interview and then the coronavirus prevent us from having the pleasure of interviewing him in the studio. Like many others we had to navigate through the new normal and had a few technical difficulties but we got through it. Watch our interview with him below and for more information about the incumbent, check out his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
The challenger is Former Assistant U.S. Attorney and and MSNBC Legal Analyst Mimi Rocah has a strong record of standing up to Trump and prosecuted a veritable Who’s Who of big-name mobsters, from John Gotti Jr. to members of the Genovese and DeCavalcante crime families. Watch her interview when she stopped by the studio Sunday, January 26th, below and for more information on her check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You’ve seen the candidate interviews, have links to their websites to find out more about them and links to their social media to follow this if you want. With the primary happening two weeks from today, we encourage all to take this election very seriously, do your homework and make an informed decision when casting your vote!