Alameda County District Attorney defends record amid recall effort

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price (center) defends her record at a town hall at the Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 26. (Sonia Waraich - East Bay Echo)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price is defending her record and standing up for the progressive policies that got her into office just a few weeks after an effort to recall her emerged.

During a Saturday town hall held at the Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland, Price refuted claims that she is soft on crime, highlighting the fact that her office has served more than 6,000 victims, charged more than 7,600 cases — including homicides and serious felonies — and increased the number of victim-witness advocates by 35% since she took office eight months ago. She detailed efforts to expand mental health and community resources, as well as initiatives to support law enforcement, victims of crime, and alternatives to prosecution.

“The whole community experiences crime in a myriad of different ways and our office is committed to trying to address that however we can,” Price said.

Price’s election in the fall of 2022 was historic on many levels. She is not only the first Black woman and former foster child to hold the position, but also the first person in a century to be elected to the position in a competitive race. Previous district attorneys were appointed or ran unopposed. Price campaigned on a reform platform committed to reversing policies that disproportionately harm vulnerable communities. On Saturday, she highlighted that 82% of those under 21 serving life without the possibility of parole from Alameda County are Black, while 71% of all individuals serving life without parole from the county are also Black.

“The state rate is less than 35%,” Price said. “So we’ve doubled the state rate, that’s the legacy of our criminal justice system that we are mandated to correct under the Racial Justice Act.”

The California Racial Justice Act, which was passed in 2020, addresses racial, ethnic and national origin-based bias within the criminal legal system. The law creates a pathway for people with evidence they were convicted because of racial bias to have their convictions vacated.

However, less than eight months into her term, Price is facing a recall attempt organized by a group called Save Alameda for Everyone (SAFE): Recall DA Price. The group’s principal officers include two attorneys from the Los Angeles-based political law firm Reed & Davidson, as well as Oakland resident Brenda Grisham, whose son was killed in 2010. Currently gathering signatures and raising funds, the group alleges that the district attorney is “failing us in her responsibility to enforce the law, prosecute criminals and keep violent offenders off our streets.

Price challenged these claims, pointing out the work her office has done to prosecute people responsible for committing violent crimes. Price’s office has been focusing on other types of crime, too, recently charging Union City-based Alfa Private Security for owing more than $800,000 in unpaid wages to 87 employees. She has reopened cases of police misconduct that had been closed by her predecessor as well.

Price’s office has been reviewing resentencing nominations for people identified by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for release, while also fostering support for reentry of the formerly incarcerated into the community. This effort included creating a reentry commission comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals, business owners, housing providers and more, all working collaboratively to ensure successful reintegration into the community.

Price acknowledged there is still more work to do, particularly when it comes to getting fully staffed.

“We don’t have enough deputies to charge people for Oakland,” Price said. “We don’t have enough mental health clinicians at our Family Justice Center … We need more paralegals — we’ve established a pipeline program with Cal State East Bay and we’re bringing that online. So we are busy.”

Price is set to host a series of town halls across Alameda County to share some of the progress her office has made so far, including an event from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 13 at Niles Discovery Church in Fremont. The town hall is set to be streamed on Zoom for those who cannot attend in person.

Photo caption: Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price (center) defends her record at a town hall at the Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 26. Price was joined by Oakland Police Lt. Erin Mausz (left) and Brooklyn Williams, chief of education and community safety with the Oakland mayor’s office, (right). (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)

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