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Tim Talk: Facing recall, DA Price comes to Pleasanton Rotary

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price.

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price ventured into town last week to speak at the Rotary Club of Pleasanton.

If her entourage wandered around town, they could find people gathering signatures to put a recall on the ballot.

Tim Hunt
Tim Hunt. Contributed photo

She presented an overview of her office and its role and then took a range of questions. To her credit, she didn’t duck around them and frankly noted that she probably disagreed with members on questions such as cash bail.

Price also demonstrated a sense of humor when she was asked about the sideshows that close down streets in Oakland. She repeated what she said she told the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, “I’m not the mayor of Oakland.”

She also said her office inherited a huge backlog of misdemeanor cases, despite the 35 deputy attorneys who daily review cases to make charging decisions. She questioned the organization of the office because once a charging officer makes that decision, then another attorney takes care of the arraignment and so forth.

She implied that other offices are organized vertically so one attorney handles a case through various steps. Price said when she visited the Fremont charging office there was a huge stack of cases dating back to 2015. The question was: can we close these cases?

Price said that she doesn’t like to send criminals to prison for long terms because she believes in second chances and that people can change. Particularly with juveniles, she’s leaning hard into the collaborative courts to try and get “upstream” of the crimes.

She cited a UCLA study about sentencing for Black men. She noted that 82% of people under 21 sentenced to life without the possibility of parole were Black men and comparing life sentences for Black defendants in Alameda County showed 71% compared to 35% statewide. That disparity begs further examination.

She pointed out that when more people started becoming homeless in 2017, that sent “survival crimes” or crimes of opportunity soaring. She also bemoaned the flood of guns in the county that started during the pandemic and has increased since.

Price frankly said she doesn’t know what she can do to make people feel safe and noted that her car has been broken into twice and her office—prior to her election—once while she was working there at night.

When she took office in January, she rapidly cleaned house and put some veteran prosecutors on administrative leave. Last month she quietly put three of them back to work, but did not resolve the issues around the leave. A number of experienced prosecutors have either left or retired. There’s also the controversy about putting her boyfriend on her office payroll.

Just what will play out remains to be seen, but she’s the first non-prosecutor ever to run the office. Her background is as a civil rights attorney.

Editor's note: "Tim Talk" is a blog written by Tim Hunt, a native of Alameda County. Hunt spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in addition to writing editorials for more than 15 years. 

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