December 06, 2012
By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Co – Managing Editor;
Brandon I. Brooks, Co – Managing Editor;
Jennifer Bihm, Assistant Editor
The swearing-in of Jackie Lacey, as Los Angeles County’s first African American and first woman district attorney, was a historic occasion. The ceremony started off with musical selections by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, followed by master of ceremonies, U.S. Attorney for the Central District Andre Birotte, who led the presentation of colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and the Invocation. Birotte spoke briefly about Lacey from his official and personal perspective as a law enforcement colleague and a friend, before introducing former District Attorney Steve Cooley, Lacey’s former boss.
“I want to thank my husband, David, and my kids, Kareem and April, for all they’ve done to help me realize this dream. Also my nephew Laydell,” said Lacey who took the oath of office and her official badge from Cooley.
During an interview, just after she had won the election, she said that it wasn’t until she took a trip to the post office to mail ‘thank you’ cards that she finally began to realize the enormity of what she had done.
“I was just going to pop in there and mail my stuff and I was sort of surprised that people said, ‘I know who you are. You’re the district attorney of L.A. County.’ I still haven’t really watched television and I’m barely picking up things and reading the papers. And so, something tells me it was a bigger deal than I realized at the time.”
But she has no intention or desire to bask. She’s been ready to get to work even before her candidacy. Now, she said, her top priorities would be public safety, alternative sentencing and prison realignment.
“There are a lot of business things that have to be taken care of in the office,” said Lacey.
“The legislature will be in session in January. So, I want to talk to our legislative lobby as to find out what are we going to do. What’s our agenda? Right now [for instance] with prison overcrowding, the legislature is reluctant to pass enhancements that would add even a day to someone’s prison sentence. I want them to understand that there are some bad actors out there that they may not want in their community. So, we’ll be talking about that.
“We’ll also be talking about expanding alternative sentencing courts, which are courts that are alternatives to jail. Right now there are pilot programs in place for drug and mental illness. We can probably expand those.
“I’m most concerned about people in need of mental health services, particularly African Americans. There are a lot of us who are suffering from undiagnosed, untreated mental illness. Some of us are out on the streets right now. There is hope, I know a lot of people who are suffering from mental illness who are working because they’ve got it managed. They’ve got healthcare. Their doctors have found the right drugs to bring them out of depression, etc…”
Lacey told the Galen Center audience that she would also focus on cultivating healthy relationships.
“I will lead by example,” she directed at the office staff.
“I will treat you the way I would want to be treated if our roles were reversed. I will support you as you do your job; you are my heroes. To my counterparts in the justice system, I will work with you, listen to you, and respect what you do and your opinions.
“I will make decisions that are in the best interest of justice. I look forward to working with my fellow law enforcement executives: U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte; California Attorney General Kamala Harris and local police chiefs – so many of whom are here with us today.”