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San Diego DA Candidates Spar Over Police Shooting Investigations, Leadership

District attorney candidates Geneviéve Jones-Wright, left, and Summer Stephan.
Geneviéve Jones-Wright and Summer Stephan campaigns
District attorney candidates Geneviéve Jones-Wright, left, and Summer Stephan.
San Diego DA Candidates Spar Over Police Shooting Investigations, Leadership
San Diego DA Candidates Spar Over Police Shooting Investigations, Leadership GUESTS: Geneviéve Jones-Wright, deputy public defender, San Diego County Summer Stephan, interim district attorney, San Diego County

There are two races in the June primary that voters countywide will be deciding. The election for San Diego County district attorney and the race for sheriff. Recently KPBS hosted a forum for the district attorney candidates interim DA Summer Stefan and San Diego deputy public defender Genevieve Jones right. Reporter Jade Heineman interviewed the candidates. >> Reporter: You each call yourselves reformers. Genevieve what specific reforms are you seeking if elected? >> We are in dire need of belt reform. There are poor people sitting in our gels locally and statewide and across the nation simply because they cannot afford bail. When we talk about public safety, we have to take the focus off of the inability to pay bail and talk about a person's danger to society or the risk of arm. There are a lot of people sitting in jail just because they cannot pay bail out because they are a flight risk, or because they are a danger or will not return to court we have to fix that. It does not keep our communities safe. This is something the district attorney can do now without waiting for state lawmakers. That is a reform that needs to happen. I would like to disrupt this prison pipeline and destroy the pipeline altogether. San Diego County has made strides to that. They have not done enough to actually do that. I would like to hold police officers accountable. We see in San Diego County where the district attorney's office has been a rubberstamp and not held offices accountable. Those are the things I would like to do in the way of reform. >>> Summer, you talked before about reforms being carried out in the past. What work remains to be done? See there is always work to be done. San Diego County is always been a leader in for form. We have talked across the country on what works and what are the face reforms. San Diego is the safest County in America. We do it by balancing prosecution, production of the rooms, preventing crime. These reforms are you give people second chances through supporting them, behavioral health, addiction treatment, we have done it in the veterans treatment court. Something I started in 2007. I want to carry those models to also nonveterans. We started a program the DA safety initiative that gives a second chances allows the lower level offenders, the nonviolent come in and serious offenders to get a second chance. Through treatment, going to a class, and volunteer work so they can connect with the community and understand that when they make a crime, it hurts the community, the community wants to give them a second chance. >> Reporter: Genevieve, this County Board of Supervisors said they would join President Donald Trump's lawsuit against California can sanctuary policies. Gas Burke said caliph Borneo was safer before Senate Bill 54 agree it's less safe now ? I do not. I believe my opponent who touts that San Diego is one of the communities with the less amount of crime would also have to disagree with Ms. Gaspar. We know that there is no correlation between being a sanctuary state or city and crime. The same way that we don't have to substitute keeping public safety and seeking justice. People tend to give us false choices in their leadership according to their values. That is a wonderful example of that. We know that the County Board of Supervisors are all republican. Even in the face of tens and tens of community members who came to speak and to speak against their joining of the Trump lawsuit, their values and their political affiliation informed their vote instead of listening to the people that they were there to represent. One thing that I have taken to heart is the fact that my opponent was there along with Sheriff Gore, obviously, both Republicans, and they never weighed in on the conversation. I think it does a disservice to the people you are supposed to represent when you do not give voice to their voices. And the voice of the district attorney, and the sheriff would be a strong voice in something like the County Board of Supervisors going against the community members. They are supposed to represent. >> Reporter: What are your thoughts, summer? >> Our County has never been involved in the integration -- immigration issues in terms of assisting or helping Immigration. In fact, we were out and supported Bill number 785, and I spoke out about it that makes allows victims and witnesses to come to court and be protected from any questions about their documentation status. I was the one at the very beginning who change the roles so that the compensation fund allows for compensation to victims no questions asked about their documentation status. We are here to serve all victims. My office is participating in TV sets, UV says, we need victims and witnesses of crime to be protected. My team does not get involved at all. We treat all victims the same no matter their documentation. >> From what you said, do you agree with Chairwoman Gaspar and that San Diego was safer before ? do you agree San Diego is less now? >> I have not seen any evidence that San Diego is less safe. I look at the evidence-based and state law. What arrests. What are the rates of crime under state law? I do not know what figures she considered. My gauge is the San Diego figures, the FBI figures and crime Index. I have not seen the crime index change. >> Reporter: Right now, when police shoot and kill someone in the course of their job, though shootings are justified if they are objectively reasonable. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced a bill AB 931 that would only allow police to shoot if it is needed to prevent imminent and serious harm. It would also allow prosecutors to consider whether an officer's actions could have put them in danger. Did you support that bill? >> I am studying that bill. I have now formed an opinion. We are looking at every side of that bill. The law that we have comes from the Supreme Court. It comes from case law. That is the law that we operate under which is whether it is reasonable that there was a threat to safety or to others. When officer Shoot. Not whether it is an administrative question but whether the officer committed a homicide. In my job, no one is above the law. I have already as district attorney charged a deputy sheriff with sexual misconduct and with acting improperly under color of authority. Multiple felony charges. I have charged another police officer with fraudulent behavior. Each case is look at and under the law that we have, that is the law that I applied. >>> What are your thoughts on that Genevieve? >> I believe our state legislature should approve the bill. It should be passed. I would also like to say that my opponent's record of justifying these killings and shootings by sheriff deputies and law enforcement officers belies her words. The DA's office has been a rubberstamp. Officers are not being held accountable under the law. We have a system in place in San Diego where officers are in fact above the law. We can take a look at how long it took for her to investigate and then to file charges of the deputy that she mentioned. Sheriff Deputy Fisher. How long that was swept under the rug before anyone got involved not just the DAs office but the sheriffs. It was because of social media. It was because of petitions by the people who wanted to see action. When we look at the numbers, 155 involved -- officer involved shootings between 2005 in 2015 all were justified. That was under Bonnie to's administration. I opponent is a continuation of that administration. We are seeing a pattern of killings, and I have yet to hear a district attorney's office even when they believe the killings are justified talk about de-escalation. Why are we shooting so much? Why is shooting to go to tactic. The people are ready for officers to be held accountable and be trained better and racial bias. That is something I am not hearing from this particular district attorney. >> Reporter: Do you like to respond to that? >> Yes deputy keys, it took less than 30 days to file charges as to multiple victims. An investigation that was submitted to our office, we prioritized it and we were able to charge those charges and begin to bring justice to those victims in lightspeed matter. I don't think that she was at the summit that I held that brought together mental health professionals, police from every police department, and also the homeless advocates all together in one room to talk about issues that crossover from law enforcement into mental health. We know a lot of the cases that are involved with police shootings involve the health shootings. I have my partner here who we work together who is the DA from LA County. We are working together. We introduced the concept of adding resources to de-escalation to bring crisis intervention to be able to bring more resources to officers as they deal with the increase in mental health and mental health issues that we have seen really be a part of many, many of the shootings. That is something that we are dressing. With regard to diversity, this is really about the numbers and the fax. 40% of my executive management team are diverse. They are across the board from reflective of our entire community. And Talking about training on bias, that is the first training that I provided to my entire team was on unconscious bias. Because justice and having justice that is equal for every community, having relationships with every community has been and continues to go -- be a priority for me. >>> We will bring you part two of the forum tomorrow on Midday Edition.

San Diego County's top law prosecutor will be one of the only elected positions filled in June, with only two candidates vying to be the region's district attorney.

Interim District Attorney Summer Stephan, who was appointed after Bonnie Dumanis resigned as DA last year, is running against San Diego County Deputy Public Defender Geneviéve Jones-Wright.


RELATED: San Diego District Attorney’s Race Pits Public Defender Against County’s Interim Prosecutor

Both candidates have labelled themselves reformers. Stephan points to her record helping pioneer the office's Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division and starting North County's first Veterans Treatment Court. Jones-Wright said she would change bail procedures so that defendants would not be held because of an inability to pay cash bail and would create an independent panel to review police shootings.

Jones-Wright and Stephan join KPBS Midday Edition with more on their visions for the District Attorney's office.

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