Newly Elected Prosecutors Take office, Implement First Policies

Prosecutors elected in November on reform platforms are now being sworn into office.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch details the new policies that Wesley Bell announced after becoming prosecuting attorney of St. Louis County. These include seeking to change charging practices to lessen the pressure defendants face to plead guilty, not prosecuting possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana, and not seeking cash bail for misdemeanors and low-level felony charges.

Scott Miles, the new commonwealth’s attorney of Chesterfield County, Virginia, implemented similar changes to cash bail and marijuana policy. Jim McConnell profiled Miles’s incoming administration for the Chesterfield Observer, writing that Miles plans broader changes to drug prosecution to downgrade more cases from the felony to the misdemeanor level.

Michael Jonas of CommonWealth profiled Rachael Rollins, Boston’s new DA. He focused on Rollins’s campaign commitment to not prosecute a list of low-level offenses and on what this would entail concretely. Jonas also documented police opposition to Rollins’s proposal. In fact, the National Police Association (NPA) filed a complaint against Rollins in December, before she even took office, on the grounds that it was a breach of her duties. Radley Balko rebuffs the NPA’s complaint in the Washington Post, calling it “an attempt to thwart the agenda of a reform-minded district attorney, one who was clear about what she wanted to do.”

The Boston Globe’s Maria Cramer profiled Rollins through the angle of how she will staff her office in a way that will enable her to implement policy changes. Rollins said in a November speech that she would ask staff prosecutors looking to retain their position, “Why did you apply for a job where you would be putting people of color in jail every single day?” Cramer reports that other statements made by Rollins signaled more circumspection about the extent of personnel change. This same story is unfolding elsewhere: The new DA of Dallas fired 12 staff prosecutors, and the new prosecuting attorney of St. Louis fired three, including the person responsible for presenting evidence about Michael Brown’s death to the grand jury convened in 2014.