The winner of the race to become the next district attorney in Adams and Broomfield counties will take over an office recently blasted into national attention for its decision to not charge officers in the death of Elijah McClain.
Both candidates — Democrat Brian Mason and Republican Tim McCormack — worked for more than a decade in the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes cases in counties with a combined population of more than 580,000 people.
The candidate who wins the election likely will have to navigate findings of investigations into McClain’s death by local, state and federal authorities while attempting to rebuild community trust in an office both men agreed has lost credibility.
Neither candidate would say whether they agreed with the decision to not criminally charge Aurora police officers in connection with McClain’s death, though Mason said McClain did not deserve to die.
The candidates agree on several changes they’d like to see: expanded programs that divert people facing charges from the criminal justice system, more opportunities for specialty courts that help people with addiction and mental health needs, and more programs that send mental health professionals instead of, or along with, police to 911 calls. Both committed to collecting and analyzing data regarding the demographics of who is charged and the outcome of cases in the office. Both candidates said they do not support defunding the police.
“I’m for sensible and realistic reform as long as it doesn’t jeopardize public safety,” McCormack said.
Mason joined the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in 2006 and rose through the ranks to his current role as chief trial deputy, which means he oversees felony prosecutions. Prior to attending law school, he worked as an aide in President Bill Clinton’s administration
McCormack joined the office in 1999 and also became chief trial deputy before leaving in 2017 to work in the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office. McCormack said he left over “a disagreement with how the office was being run, with how people were being treated.”
McCormack said he would not allow the current district attorney, Dave Young, to work in his office if elected. He criticized Young’s leadership of the agency, calling it “scandal-plagued” and alleged that poor management has led to high turnover rates.
“(Mason) has every right, opportunity and reason to make change in that office,” McCormack said. “And he hasn’t.”
Young, who is term-limited, has faced a series of controversies over the last year, including his decision in the McClain case and revelations that he had an affair with a victim advocate in his office, Kate Petrocco, while he was her boss. Petrocco later died by suicide.
“I think our reputation has taken a hit and rebuilding that reputation is one of my priorities,” Mason said.
Part of the work would involve creating a citizen review board to provide input to the office, Mason said, though he hasn’t pinned down the details of what that might look like.
“The criminal justice system is under scrutiny as never before, and I welcome that scrutiny,” Mason said.
Both candidates promised to diversify the prosecutor’s office to better reflect the counties it serves. Fifty-seven of the 80 attorneys in the office are white, according to data collected by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. There were no Black attorneys in the office as of June.
Mason would also like to implement annual training about implicit racial bias — a type of training he says has happened once in the 14 years he’s worked in the office. He said he participated in two civil rights protests this summer.
“I say without reservation, ‘Black lives matter,’” he said.
McCormack, who has been endorsed by 10 law enforcement unions in the jurisdiction, said he’d restore relationships between prosecutors and police.
“When I went around and had the discussions with the Fraternal Order of Police organizations, I was told that at best their relationship is acrimonious and, at worst, it’s nonexistent,” he said.
Neither candidate would say whether lawmakers should re-evaluate the state laws that determine when a law enforcement officer can be charged with a crime when they injure or kill someone in their work. Mason said he had not taken a policy position on that issue. McCormack said he’d like to see how the police reform law enacted this summer affects policing before making such a statement.
And neither candidate would say whether they would consider dropping charges filed by the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office against protest leaders who led a sit-in outside of an Aurora police station this summer.
Source: Read Full Article