Principle # 4: Be Transparent and Accountable to the Community

 

i. Engage with the Community You Represent

Enhancing transparency and accountability within the district attorney’s office is critical to ending the win-at-any-cost pursuit of high conviction rates that fails communities and to ensuring community accountability.  Providing the community with information about arrest rates, charging decisions, and sentencing policies will help build and maintain trust between the office and the community it serves.

  • Maintain and publish an electronic case management system to measure the overall effectiveness of the office—including the number of misdemeanor and felony cases filed each month, disposition statistics, pretrial incarceration rates and length of stay by offense category, and average bond for each class of offense—so that the community can determine the effectiveness of policies aimed at reform.

  • Track racial information at all steps of the prosecution process, and publicly report any significant racial disparities arising at any stage of the process.

  • Build a staff that reflects the diversity of the community the office serves.

  • Conduct open sessions with the community at least once every month, and create other public channels for community members and organizations to engage with the office.

 

ii.  Create an Independent Public Integrity Unit

The district attorney must be committed to rigorously and independently investigating and prosecuting police and other official misconduct. An independent Public Integrity Unit tasked with investigating and prosecuting alleged instances of public corruption, fraud, police shootings, or other abuses of power will help avoid concerns about bias in cases involving police misconduct.

  • Develop clear procedures and staff responsibilities whenever an officer-involved shooting occurs, including a robust investigatory protocol and an independent investigatory team that has no regular contact with the law enforcement agency in question.

  • Release dash-cam recordings and audio or video surveillance related to police-involved shootings within 30 days of any incident.

  • Commit to a full investigation of any allegation involving police corruption, including presentation to the grand jury.

  • Provide defense counsel with a list of all officers under investigation.

 

iii. Develop Policies that Ensure the Integrity of Convictions

Law enforcement officials and prosecutors will inevitably make mistakes. The consequences of wrongful convictions are manifold; the innocent person spends years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and justice continues to elude the victim’s family. Prosecutors must be vigorous in re-examining prior cases whenever there is credible evidence of innocence, and must develop policies that limit the possibility of future wrongful convictions. 

  • Establish and fully staff a Conviction Integrity Unit that  examines post-conviction cases to identify and correct wrongful prosecutions. Keep the division separate from the office’s appellate division.

  • Create a review process for all discretionary decisions, from charging through disposition, where senior staff examine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the charges and whether the decision is consistent with the office’s policy of seeking the least severe acceptable charges.

  • Create an office policy recognizing the flaws in informant testimony, and develop clear guidelines regarding its acceptable use.

  • Prohibit staff from relying on discredited scientific techniques, such as bite mark analysis or hair strand matching.

  • Develop clear office guidelines regarding the use of forensic evidence and instill respect for scientific methodology, evidence, and analysis.

  • Install a complete open-file policy that provides defense counsel with access to all non-privileged information from the moment the charges are filed.

  • Conduct regular Brady training, require prosecutors to turn over all evidence that arguably falls within the Brady rule, and discipline prosecutors who fail to comply with their Brady obligations.

  • End formal and informal office practices that incentivize seeking convictions and lengthy sentences over justice and fairness, including conviction quotas, and promotions and / or compensation based on conviction rates and sentence lengths.