Parents at a recent community meeting in Oakland, California vented their deep frustration with a progressive prosecutor and the growing problem of crime in the city.
Ironically, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price intended the event at Montclair Presbyterian Church as a way to showcase the alleged success of her social justice approach to criminals. But the audience was having none of it, neither before, during nor after the meeting, according to accounts shared by local news media.
Some people heckled Price as she tried to give her routine community safety presentation.
“At what point will you be listening to our safety concerns?” one person asked, reported Oaklandside, which reported that community concerns about crime have grown over the past six months.
Those concerns “are driven in part by a noticeable rise in most categories of crime. Violent crime overall, including robberies and assaults, is up 15% this year, according to [the Oakland Police Department],” wrote the local news website. “And there have been over 10,000 burglaries this year compared to about 7,000 at this time last year.”
The only bright spot? Homicides are down 13% from their record number in 2022, according to the Oakland Press.
But community members are not mollified, as the more common crimes, the ones that happen in the thousands to local families, spike. It’s so bad that even the local chapter of the NAACP called “for a state of emergency to address rising crime,” said CBS Bay Area News.
Local critics point to progressive politics, an astonishing admission for one of the most progressive cities in the country.
“Failed leadership, including the movement to defund the police, our district attorney’s unwillingness to charge and prosecute people who murder and commit life threatening serious crimes, and the proliferation of anti-police rhetoric have created a heyday for Oakland criminals,” said a statement from NAACP branch president Cynthia Adams and The Rev. Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church. “If there are no consequences for committing crime in Oakland, crime will continue to soar.”
Merrill Matthews, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovations, was a little less caustic, but clearly delineated the problem.
“Pamela Price wants to be a social worker, not a DA,” Matthews said about the community’s frustration with the district attorney. “Social workers try to help people with various types of struggles and challenges overcome those issues so they can lead full and productive lives. It’s important work, but that is not the job description of a district attorney.”
Price is having the same problem that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner faced before her essentially forced resignation in May. Gardner resigned as a restless populace, demanding politicians, and a suddenly curious media assaulted her with a barrage of evidence she wasn’t doing her basic job of prosecuting criminals.
Gardner was facing charges of criminal contempt for failing to prosecute crime, charges that came to a head when a vehicle driven by an alleged repeat offender – one she had failed to put behind bars for a robbery – caused a crash resulting in teenager Janae Edmondson losing both legs to amputation.
Like Price, Gardner appeared driven by the racial goals of her progressive politics more than a desire to defend the community from criminals. Gardner even sued the police union for a supposed racist conspiracy under an obscure 1871 law aimed at the Ku Klux Klan, a lawsuit which was eventually quashed by an Obama-appointed judge.
“Her 32-page complaint can best be described as a conglomeration of unrelated claims and conclusory statements supported by very few facts, which do not plead any recognizable cause of action,” U.S. District Judge John Ross wrote in his order dismissing the case, according to Courthouse News.
In the meantime, criminals went free, as prosecutors left Gardner’s office in droves, demoralized by not being able to do their job.
Price and Gardner aren’t alone, says Cully Stimson, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former federal prosecutor.
“The ingenious part, the devilish part of this movement is they realize there’s 2,300 elected DAs around the country, these are low visibility, low dollar races, and for [a] pittance, politically speaking, you can buy a DA,” said Sully.
But as Price and Gardner have found out, getting buy-in from families in the community, who must live with the crime these DAs’ policies create, doesn’t come quite as easily.
As a result, Gardner has resigned, Kimberly Foxx, Chicago’s progressive DA, has announced she won’t be running for reelection, progressive US Attorney Rachel Rollins was forced out after an ethics scandal, and San Francisco’s top progressive, DA Chesa Boudin, was recalled.
Meanwhile, states are responding to voters and considering legislation that would force district attorneys to do what they swear to do: uphold the law.
“It’s ridiculous that a step like this has become necessary,” said Texas state Rep. David Cook. “But when you have district attorneys that are being defiant saying we’re not going to prosecute certain crimes, then you have to have a process in place that provides repercussions for making bad decisions.”