We’re all criminals. Let that sink in a moment. All of us, we’re criminals. Ever driven 67 on the beltway? Criminal. Jaywalked? Criminal. Forgot to use your blinker before changing lanes? Criminal. Don’t have a license for your pet dog in the city? Criminal. Something else we all have in common is that we all want our criminal behavior excused, or at least not enforced upon.
I was being facetious about the examples of criminal behavior – except for the license to own a dog example. That is a needless ordinance, the purpose is served by the separate ordinance requiring rabies vaccinations. However, I was serious regarding we want our criminal behavior excused. The desire to have our criminal behavior excused isn’t unreasonable in and of itself. Should you really be given a citation for driving 67 on the beltway? But depending on what the behavior is the consequences of the behavior sometimes warrant criminal justice system involvement. Crack use or sex offences as an example.
Not all of these examples of criminal behavior should be taken off the books. Law enforcement needs the ability to engage in pretext stops to stop dangerous behavior, and that’s where the District Attorney’s office comes into play. Law enforcement officers refer charges to the DA’s office, and the elected DA sets policy on a) guidelines for accepting or rejecting charges b) plea bargains and c) cutting deals to catch the higher order offenders.
Are you happy with the way the city addresses criminal behavior? The DA’s office can’t require law enforcement to refer charges, but the elected DA can decide which type(s) of crime to have a near zero tolerance policy on. She also sets policy on when to cut deals to go after higher order criminals. The policy decisions the DA sets trickles down to law enforcement on which types of crime to crack down on and which types aren’t work the risks of a stop for enforcement purposes. Policy decisions lets the public know where the DA’s priorities are. Both candidates for DA need to be asked what their policies will be. And Devon’s answer needs to correspond to the current policies in force in her office.