By Robert J. Hansen
The June 7 Yolo County primary election is nearly 3 months away and voters will decide on two county supervisor seats (Districts 2 and 3), the sheriff and the district attorney.
The Vanguard will be bringing exclusive coverage of the district attorney’s race from now until the primary, beginning with a comparison of the district attorney’s and his challenger’s platforms.
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig is running for a fifth term in office, having served as the county‘s top prosecutor since 2007.
In 2018 Reisig narrowly defeated Dean Johansson by roughly 2000 votes out of the total 42,743 votes cast that year.
Challenging Reisig is the president of the West Yolo Democratic Club and an attorney with 40 years of experience, Cynthia Rodriguez, on a platform of “Safety and Equal Justice,” according to her campaign website.
To achieve safety and equal justice, there are three areas of change that Rodriguez would focus on as district attorney.
Those areas are public safety and health, criminal justice reform, and transparency and integrity.
Rodriguez says that transparency, DA discretion, and equal justice can’t be mentioned without including public safety.
“Because DAs have a lot of discretion in how they set their priorities, they need to be set for full transparency to the public,” Rodriguez said.
According to his campaign website, Reisig’s top priorities are pursuing sex predators and human traffickers, promoting diversity inclusion and community, and resisting hate and tackling implicit bias.
Last October, Reisig told the Sacramento Bee, “I’m not an ideologue. I’m not in the same category as hardcore progressives that are looking to fundamentally rip down the system and rebuild it. I view our job more as threading the needle of criminal justice reform and public safety at the same time.”
At a town hall meeting last month, Reisig said human trafficking is modern-day slavery and affects more than people realize.
From May 2020 to May 2022 there have been 543 cases referred to the district attorney’s office and 179 were felonies according to Commons, the public portal for Yolo County’s criminal justice data.
Of those felonies, 90 are categorized as violent with the rest most related to property or drug crimes.
Data on Commons show 13 cases of human trafficking have been referred to the district attorney’s office from 2016 to 2020.
“These are cases that often go unsolved. An arrest isn’t made even though it is suspected to be happening,” Reisig said. “More so than the numbers would lead you to suspect.”
Rodriguez thinks the public portal is an interesting demonstration of some of the problems with District Attorney Reisig.
“It took him 16 years to publish the outcomes of his policies and priorities. For 16 years he didn’t reveal that to us,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s too little too late.”
She said since it hasn’t been updated, Reisig hasn’t informed the public of anything for the past year.
“He hasn’t revealed what he’s going to do about the problems the data shows about the demonstration of bias and unequal treatment of different races, and the lack of ability to put this data out only once a year,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said data without analysis is meaningless.
“Without analysis … he hasn’t told us what the data means,” Rodriguez said. “Does it indicate what the problems in his office are?”
Rodriguez thinks it’s an empty promise to say things are important and not show the public how you’ve addressed issues of race and implicit bias.
Reisig told the Sacramento Bee that he has been training prosecutors on implicit bias since 2015.
“We’re tackling implicit bias, and we’ve been doing that since 2015 when we were the first office to train all of our prosecutors on implicit bias,” Reisig said. “This is just the next step.
Rodriguez said that while anything that removes race from the decision to change a charge is positive, the blind charging algorithm is not a good example of what needs to be done.
“It’s not positive that he has to substitute an algorithm for good judgment. If he has reason to suspect that his deputies are not charging equitably in who and how they charge, then he needs to use his judgment and deal with them accordingly,” Rodriguez said.
Reisig said he does not believe his office has a problem with bias but concedes that many people have that perception nationwide about how prosecutors’ offices work.
On the issue of holding law enforcement accountable when they have hurt or killed somebody, Rodriguez has experience doing that from her time with the California Department of Corrections.
“Peace officers were very helpful to me and every case I had had peace officers that were involved and helping,” Rodriguez. “When someone’s doing wrong that’s not a secret to other peace officers. They know who are problems and they no more want them than I want crummy attorneys to be practicing law.”
Rodriguez said people are too smart to believe when investors tell the public that law enforcement never makes mistakes.
“The public doesn’t take that well. It becomes a question of are we being told the truth when we never hear a DA finding fault with a police department,” Rodriguez said.
Reisig has prosecuted a couple of police officers in recent years. In 2020 a former Davis police officer was charged with embezzlement but the Yolo County District Attorney has not prosecuted any police officers or sheriff’s deputies for excessive use of force.