“For many days now, I have been at a loss for words— unable to adequately articulate the pain, hurt, outrage, and frustration so many of us are feeling in the wake of the physical and emotional unrest in our country right now. But even as I tried to suppress and compartmentalize my emotions so that I might accomplish the many professional and personal tasks in front of me, I was confronted with this reality: now is not the time for silence, but for bold and vocal opposition to the racial atrocities and criminal justice inequities plaguing our nation.
This week, I joined 45 of my elected prosecutor colleagues across the country in denouncing the murder of George Floyd and the episodes of police brutality and excessive force that so vividly remind us of the pain and suffering that flow from centuries of racial oppression. We stand in solidarity against the abuses of authority that have led to injustices against Black and Brown people for far too long. This is a watershed moment in history and a tipping point for social change that rivals the Civil Rights movement. It is time for a change. As elected prosecutors, we wield immense power and discretion. But we must use that power and discretion wisely, responsibly, and for the benefit of ALL we serve. We are the change we seek. We, I, am a proud change-agent.
Early on in my administration, my team and I took great care to craft a mission statement that reflected our values and vision. It boiled down to these three words: Engage. Protect. Restore. This week, I reminded my staff of our commitment:
We believe in holding all offenders accountable, including those who don a badge and uniform. Our record is clear. We have not shunned indictments or prosecutions involving law enforcement for fear of backlash or criticism. In fact, we have forged ahead in these matters without regard to the critical lens upon us for doing so.
We are committed to understanding the systemic racism upon which our criminal justice system was built; how it has been a barrier to justice and continues to infiltrate the system; and how we, in our capacity, can right these wrongs. At the same turn, we believe in restorative justice and programs that divert low-level offenders to the assistance they need to make meaningful changes in their lives and substantive contributions to our communities, thereby reducing recidivism rates.
We recognize that we are flawed as human beings, and that there is a way to combat it, if we own it. In this regard, we committed time and resources to a comprehensive Implicit Bias training for our entire staff this past year. It is by no means an exhaustive measure, but it is a start. I am committed to continuing to explore my own biases, creating more space for my staff to do the same, and extending an invitation to our law enforcement partners to join this critical discussion on an ongoing basis.
We believe we can be a standard bearer for prosecution offices and for our community by doing what is right, without fail, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular.
We believe we can make a difference by reimagining and reshaping prosecution in creative, innovative, inclusive, and diverse ways that consider the crime AND the person.
We believe we can create a more just and more fair society by engaging our community and stakeholders in action-oriented conversations aimed at becoming a better DeKalb, a better Georgia, a better nation, and a better people—beyond this moment, beyond the headlines, and beyond the hashtags.
But today, we mourn. Today, we offer our condolences to the family of George Floyd and to the countless other mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters—shattered families— left to grieve the loss of their loved ones robbed of life in tragic and senseless ways.”
Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit