San Francisco District Attorney, the Honorable Kamala Harris speaks to the National Black Prosecutors at their annual conference. Harris is a candidate to be the Attorney General of California
DA Harris Kicks Off 27th Annual National Black Prosecutors Association Conference
SAN FRANCISCO — District Attorney Kamala D. Harris welcomed over 150 prosecutors from across the country to San Francisco to mark the 27th Annual National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA) Conference.
“It is an honor and a pleasure to host the National Black Prosecutors Association’s 27th Annual Conference in the City of Saint Francis,” said District Attorney Kamala D. Harris. “I am proud to be able to share the innovations in public safety that we have developed right here in San Francisco and all the best of what our City has to offer with this dedicated group of colleagues and friends.”
The week-long conference kicked off its first full day with welcome remarks from District Attorney Harris and NBPA President and Assistant US Attorney from the Southern District of Florida Carmen Lineberger. Marin County Deputy District Attorney Otis Bruce was the master of ceremonies for the morning welcome session, which was followed by a round table discussion with chief prosecutors.
Norman S. Early, Jr., Past President and Co-Founder of the NBPA and former Denver, Colorado District Attorney moderated the panel of distinguished chief prosecutors which included the District Attorneys from Philadelphia, PA, the Bronx, NY and California’s San Francisco, Alameda, Marin and Los Angeles counties. The US Attorneys from Minnesota and Ohio also participated in the two-hour discussion.
The annual awards luncheon followed with Alameda County Superior Court Judge the Honorable Brenda Harbin-Forte receiving the Norm E. Early, Jr. Founders Award for her professional achievements and service to the legal profession by working to expand the role of black prosecutors. The Honorable Teri Jackson of the San Francisco Superior Court and the Honorable Gail Bereola of the Alameda County Superior Court and Presiding Judge of that county’s Juvenile Court shared the distinction of being named recipients of the Thurgood Marshall Award. The honor is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated concern for human and civil rights through service and social activism. The NBPA bestowed its Trailblazer Award on Judy Johnson, Executive Director of the State Bar of California for showing outstanding achievement in local service to the legal community. The Honorable Andre J. Birotte, Jr, United States Attorney for the Central District of California delivered the luncheon’s keynote address.
As hosts of the 27th Annual NBPA Conference, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and NBPA members from surrounding Bay Area counties and the national organization offered attendees professional development, ongoing training and networking events that underscored the 2010 conference theme: “Beyond Tough on Crime: Bold Innovations for Safe Communities.”
The Monday, July 19, 2010 afternoon conference sessions included panels on San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ “Smart on Crime” initiatives to combat truancy and recidivism. San Francisco prosecutors and staff presented on Back on Track, an initiative which is recognized as a statewide and national model for a cost-effective, proven method to break the cycle of crime. Run in partnership with Goodwill Industries, the Family Service Agency, New American Media and other public, private and community-based service providers, Back on Track is an innovative reentry initiative designed by DA Harris to improve public safety by helping young, low-level, non-violent drug offenders make a permanent exit from the criminal justice system.
Prosecutors in Atlanta and Philadelphia have taken steps to replicate the innovative approach in their jurisdictions. During the Thursday evening session, attendees will have the opportunity to witness the graduation of the next cohort of Back on Track participants. These graduates will join the over 100 young people who have successfully met Back on Track’s rigorous demands. The initiative combines strict accountability with training and opportunity. Averaging a 10 percent recidivism rate, compared to a 54 percent recidivism rate among drug offenders statewide, Back on Track offers a viable model for improving California’s criminal justice system and cutting crime. Back on Track costs about $5,000 annually per participant, compared to $35,000 to $50,000 for jail or prison.
Conference participants also attended afternoon sessions on automobile and insurance fraud, the reliability of forensic science and interaction between civilian prosecutors and the military. The sessions were led by law enforcement leaders from the United States Navy, state police agencies and county prosecutors’ offices. Student attendees had the opportunity to participate in a seminar on interviewing techniques. District Attorney Harris closed the day’s session with a reception at the San Francisco War Memorial.
Events for the remainder of the week include sessions on a range of topics: elder abuse, ethics, racial justice, prosecutorial leadership, the prosecution of gang and homicide cases, handling hostile witnesses, cold cases, domestic violence, counterterrorism, hate crimes and firearms identification and tracking. Additionally, a job fair will be held for students and the members of the Oakland Police Department slain last year will be honored for their service with the Profiles in Courage Award.
The National Black Prosecutors Association is the only professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of Blacks as prosecutors. Founded in 1983, the Association’s membership is comprised of over 800 prosecutors nationwide. It includes both chief and line prosecutors nationwide. In addition to prosecutors, the association’s membership includes law students, former prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel.
The NBPA is emerging as the international association of Black law enforcement professionals with a reputation for providing education and leadership in the legal profession through its intensive training sessions and multi-disciplined networking.