By David M. Greenwald
Oakland, CA – In an announcement that has been long anticipated but nevertheless will have huge implications for the upcoming 2022 DA’s race, incumbent Nancy O’Malley issued a lengthy statement that she will not seek reelection in 2022.
“After 37 proud years as a member of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, I have decided not to seek a fourth term as District Attorney in the upcoming election,” O’Malley announced.”
She indicated that she will complete her term that ends in the beginning of 2023.
“I will work as hard as I have in the past to ensure that the next District Attorney is one who can continue to lead this Office as we progress into the future,” she said. “My contributions are many; my leadership has been successful, impactful and forward thinking. I could not be more thankful for the career I have had in the best District Attorney’s Office in the state and for sure, one of the best in the nation. The overwhelming respect for this Office is widespread and well earned.”
She added, “Importantly, the next District Attorney should be one with the highest ethical standards and professionalism; One with experience, and with credentials that makes him or her qualified to lead a prosecutor office; One who has vision to continue to move us forward in a way that keeps our community safe and strong, that provides programs, resources and ways for those who have engaged in crime to move beyond the criminal justice system; and, importantly, one who upholds the rights of victims of crime, who listens to and hears the voices of victims as a leader with compassion, commitment and care for all whom we serve.”
Thus far two challengers have emerged. Civil Rights Attorney Pamela Price, who ran in 2018, figures to be the progressive candidate, while current Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Jimmie Wilson is thus far the candidate more likely to carry on the current DA’s policies—though at least three other prosecutors have been rumored to be considering a run.
Pamela Price issued her own statement on Tuesday, noting, “For at least the last year, many in the legal community have known that incumbent District Attorney Nancy O’Malley had no intention of seeking re-election. Under her leadership, morale in the office has fallen to an all-time low, as reflected in the number of people vying to replace her before her announcement today.”
She has been extremely critical of the incumbent DA, on Tuesday noting, “For 12 years, Alameda County has been subjected to a District Attorney who claimed to be progressive while actively opposing, blocking and subverting the reform of our criminal justice system.
“The District Attorney office’s disrespect for the administration of justice as reflected in recent studies and the significant motion by the public defender’s office documenting a decade of prosecutorial misconduct has been deeply disturbing,” Price said. “The 2-year study by the Urban Peace Movement also highlighting the multiple ways in which the office’s policies and practices have led to overcriminalization, needlessly cost Alameda County too much money and promoted mass incarceration, with devastating impacts on Black and Brown communities.”
A report released in March found policies and practices of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Nancy O’Malley, led to overcriminalization of Black and Brown communities.
“The Alameda County District Attorney plays an outsized role in maintaining mass incarceration, fueling racial disparities and failing to hold police accountable,” said E.J. Pavia, Campaign Director with Urban Peace Movement. “We are calling on the Alameda County District Attorney to change its internal policies and practices. We are also calling on Alameda County residents to hold the office accountable for its actions.”
One of the surprising findings in the report is that, despite the reputation of Alameda County as being a high crime area, “[o]ver six in 10 of all charges the Alameda County DA brought against adults were low-level offenses that either should have been directed to diversion programs or not charged at all.”
Yoel Haile, Criminal Justice Program Manager at ACLU of Northern California, noted that the six in 10 of all charges constitute about 48 percent of all cases.
Haile told the Vanguard he believed that many were candidates for diversion rather than prosecution.
In addition, Price is critical of O’Malley’s handling of officer-involved shootings, including the Oscar Grant shooting.
In her statement she said, “Recently, O’Malley’s disrespect to Oscar Grant’s family and the pulling of the rug from under the family last year is a serious mark on her record. Nancy O’Malley has only ever brought charges against ONE police officer where a person has been killed while in police custody in all of Alameda County (and that was only in the last year).
“Her failure to address the pervasive unconstitutional conduct at the Santa Rita County jail has cost us millions of dollars and thousands of ruined lives. Her inaction in holding police accountable for their misconduct is painful and out of step with how voters want a DA to lead.”
Price added, “Unlike O’Malley, I commit to take aggressive steps to restore public trust in our criminal justice system, ensure public safety, end mass incarceration and root out racial, socioeconomic and gender disparities within Alameda County’s criminal justice system.”
O’Malley’s office has seen pushback over a number of cases involving in-custody deaths, most recently the April 19 death of Mario Gonzalez, who died under conditions similar to George Floyd.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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