“JUSTICE 2020”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez joins us to discuss the cutting edge “Justice 2020” initiative. It’s how he intends to keep Brooklyn safe and strengthen community trust in the criminal justice system through legal reform.

Aired May 16, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> POLICING AND THE ROLE OF THE COURTS IN BROOKLYN HAVE AN OVERHAUL.

THE NEW DISTRICT ATTORNEY ERIC GONZALEZ HAS LAUNCHED THE 2020 JUSTICE INITIATIVE PULLING THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST MINDS IN THE CITY ALL WITH THE COMMON GOAL IN MIND, IMPROVEMENT.

OVER 60 PEOPLE WILL JOIN SUBCOMMITTEES THIS YEAR COMING UP WITH NEW IDEAS AND EVERYTHING FROM BAIL REFORM TO THE WAY DRUG ADDICTS ARE TREATED EVEN DATA AND TRAEFRPTCY WILL BE UNDER SCRUTINY WHEN IT COMES TO POLICING AND PROSECUTIONS WHEN THEY'RE ALL REVIEWED.

SOME MAY BE ASKING WHY THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY WANTS TO FIX HE WHAT PEOPLE SAY IS NOT BROKEN.

THE BUROUGH IS THE SAFEST IT'S WITHIN.

IN THE DECADES LOPPING DROP IN IME IS THE ENVY OF CITIES ACROSS THE NATION.

YET SUPPORTERS OF THE PLAN SAY THERE IS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.

JOINING ME TO PLAIN THIS EXCLUSIVE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF BROOKLYN.

ERIC GONZALEZ JOINS WITH US INSIGHT HOW THE NEW EFFORT WILL WORK.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY, NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

LET ME START OFF WITH THE FIRST NOTION THAT I JUST MENTIONED HERE.

THE STATISTICS HAVE BEEN VERY ENCOURAGING.

OBVIOUSLY YOU ALWAYS WANT TO SEE THEM GET BETTER IN TERMS OF THE INCIDENTS OF CRIMES.

BUT CLEARLY WHAT IS BEING DONE IN KING'S COUNTY AND BROOKLYN HAS BEEN TRUMPETED AS A MEANS TOS SUCCESS IN TERMS OF FIGHTING CRIME.

WHY THEN DID YOU FEEL THAT WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO IS TAKE A WHOLE NEW LOOK AT EVERYTHING, THIS 2020 INITIATIVE AND MAKE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IF WARRANTED.

YOU KNOW, WE HAVE HELPED LEAD THE WAY TO SAFETY IN THE CITY AND BROOKLYN.

THE DECREASE IN VIOLENT CRIME IN PARTICULAR IN BROOKLYN IS STAGGERING ESPECIALLY FOR PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF WHO LIVED THERE, YOU KNOW, MY ENTIRE LIFE.

AND YOU KNOW, REMEMBER WHAT BROOKLYN WAS LIKE IN THE 80s AND THE '90s.

SO WE HAVE DONE AN INCREDIBLE JOB IN MAKING SURE THAT BROOKLYN REMAINS A SAFE PLACE AND GETS BETTER AND STRONGER.

BUT IN ORDER TO REACH AND TO CONTINUE PROGRESS AND MAKING SURE WE ARE SAFE WE NEED TO SORT OF FIGURE OUT HOW WE BRING THE COMMUNITY TO TRUST LAW ENFORCEMENT.

AND THERE'S BEEN A DIVIDE, YOU KNOW, IN MANY PARTS OF THE CITY.

WE'VE SEEN IT ACROSS THE COUNTRY, WHERE COMMUNITY AT TIMES DOES NOT FEEL LAW ENFORCEMENT IS -- HAS BEST INTERESTS AT HEART.

AND IN BROOKLYN WE ARE AT A GREAT PLACE.

WE ARE SAFER.

BUSINESS IS BOOMING IN THE BUROUGH.

FAMILIES ARE MOVING IN.

WE'RE GROWING EXPONENTIALLY IN BROCK LYNN AND SAFER THAN BEFORE.

SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT ISSUES OF REFORM NOW WE COULDN'T DO NO THE '90s OR THEATE 80s.

I MENTIONED LOOKING AT PUTTING TOGETHER TEAMS.

WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE COMING FROM AND WHAT IS THE MISSION GOING TO BE?

THE MISSION IS SIMPLE.

I'M THE BROOKLYN D.A. AND RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING BROOKLYN SAFE.

BUT I'M ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR STRENGTHENING TRUST IN OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM.

AND I BELIEVE YOU CAN ONLY DO THAT BY ENSURING FAIRNESS AND EQUAL JUSTICE FOR EVERYONE.

WE START ADD TREND IN BROOKLYN ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO WHERE OUR APPROACH TO KEEPING BROOKLYN SAFE WAS BASED ON FOCUSING IN ON THE VERY SMALL -- IT'S REALLY A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE.

WE ESTIMATED IT TO BE ABOUT 0.5% OF PEOPLE WHO ARE VIOLENT DRIVERS OF CRIME.

WE WORK CLOSELY WITH THE POLICE DEPARTMENT TO IDENTIFY WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE AND TO MAKE SURE ANY TIME THEY COME INTO THE SYSTEM THAT IN RE CASES ARE TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY THAT THEY DON'T GET BREAKS THAT AREN'T DESERVING.

WE ESTIMATE THIS SMALL HANDLEDFUL ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR 70% OF VITAMIN CRIME.

THOSE ARE STAGGERING NUMBERS.

THESE ARE SHOOTERS, ROBBERS, BURGLARS, THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WILL HURT OUR FAMILIES.

THE EFFORT HAS BEEN OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS -- I THINK THIS IS HOW WE HAVE DRIVEN DOWN CRIME IN BUROUGH TO FOCUS IN ON THEM.

AND NOT JUST BE REACTIVE WHEN THEY COMMIT A CRIME BUT TO PAY ATTENTION TO THEM AND FOCUS IN ON THEM.

AND WE'VE BUILT CASES THAT HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY CASE CLOSED BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND THEY WERE THE RESPONSIBLE PARTIES.

BAIL REFORM.

WE HAVE HEARD A LOT OF TALK ABOUT BAIL REFORM.

WHAT'S YOUR SENSE OF WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND WHAT CAN BE DONE IN BROOKLYN?

IT'S VERY SIMPLE.

BAIL HAS BEEN MEANT HISTORICALLY IN OUR STATE TO SECURE SOMEONE'S RETURN TO COURT.

IT'S NOT MEANT TO DETAIN SOMEONE HUE THINK IS GUILTY, AS IS AN EFFORT TO CLOSE RIKERS ISLAND, AS THERE IS AN EFFORT TO MAKE SURE THERE IS MORE FAIRNESS IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

WE LOOK AT WHO IS ON OUR RIKERS ISLAND AND 75% OF THE PEOPLE ON RIKERS ISLAND ARE NOT THERE BUS THEY WERE ACTUALLY CONVICTED OF A CRIME BUT BECAUSE THEY HAVE A FUTURE TRIAL COMING UP.

SO PRETRIAL DETENTION.

OUT THAT HAVE GROUP A FULL 90% -- 89% TO NIEPT% ARE EITHER BLACK OR HISPANIC WHO ARE SIMPLY THERE BECAUSE ANY COULD NOT AFFORD A SMALL AMOUNT OF BAIL.

IT HAS BECOME AN ISSUE OF, YOU KNOW, RACIAL, SOCIAL JUSTICE.

BUT IT'S ALSO AN ISSUE THAT THE SYSTEM SEEMINGLY HAS BECOME A SYSTEM FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN AND CAN'T AFFORD BAIL.

I'M ADVOCATING THAT OUR BAIL SYSTEM BE CHANGED.

THAT OUR BAIL SYSTEM HOLD PEOPLE IN WHO ARE A THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY BUT PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT A THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY THEY SHOULD NOT BE KEPT IN PRETRIAL.

SO WE'RE GOING TO BRING YOU BACK TOMORROW AND WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATION WITH THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY.

AND WHAT THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN THE COMING MONTHS AHEAD.

HE WILL BE BECOME.

I HOPE YOU JOIN US ALSO.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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