Taking the oath of office from D.A. Steve Cooley, surrounded by (L to R) April (daughter), Kareem (son), and David (husband)
When she was sworn, she also became the first African American and the first woman to hold that prestigious office.
The swearing-in of Jackie Lacey, as the first African American and the first woman elected as district attorney, to lead the nation’s largest county prosecutor’s office was a momentous occasion. It was history being made in ‘our’ presence – not just Black History, but American History.
The ceremony started off with musical selections by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, then master of ceremonies, U.S. Attorney for the Central District Andre Birotte and conducted the program from that point beginning with the presentation of colors, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and the Invocation.
Dr. C.L. Nikias, president of U.S.C. about Lacey spoke in glowing terms as an outstanding alumna of the university and said that its Galen Center was the setting of her swearing-in as the 42nd district attorney of L.A. County.
Judge Lee Smalley Edmon, the presiding judge of L.A. County Superior Court followed, and like Lacey, was the first woman to hold that office. She extolled the progress of the legal profession that presently has a California Supreme Court dominated by women including the Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye; the Attorney General Kamala Harris; Judge Audrey Collins, former chief federal judge, who all laid the groundwork for the day’s historic occasion.
U.S. Attorney Birotte spoke briefly about Lacey from his official and personal perspective as a law enforcement colleague and a friend, before introducing D.A. Steve Cooley, the man Lacey followed as the 42nd D.A. Lacey took the oath of office from D.A. Cooley then he joined three other former D.A.s and presented D.A. Lacey with her official badge. She then delivered her inaugural address.
D.A. Lacey spoke about all the people who helped make that moment possible: her friends, supporters and especially her family. She said, “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.”
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.”
Back at the Galen Center… She thanked Dr. Nikias and the university for their hospitality and reminisced about her days, as a child when her father drove her past USC. Furthermore, she went on, “I went to law school here, and my husband, David and I made our first home on campus in a studio apartment facing the corner of Vermont (Ave.) and Exposition (Blvd).”
At the interview with the Sentinel…“You have to understand, I have been in the background for 12 years being a part of the team that runs the office, but not being in charge,” Lacey explained. “Anyone who works with a boss for 12 years often says to themselves, ‘you know, I would have done things a little differently. If I was in charge, I would do this, or I would do that. I’d keep this or I would keep that.’”
Back to her inaugural address … Lacey spoke of her vision of the district attorney’s ceremony, her staff, and in looking back at her immediate family, it was impossible to accomplish what she did without their help, strength and guidance. “I tell that story because it is a story of determination, of faith and true strength,” she said. “It is this strength that I draw on when I think I am out of steam. It allows me to keep going.”
She told about the role the Bible played in her and her family’s lives which dovetailed into the leaders of the present. “Elected leaders of good character and sound values are still important today,” Lacey said, “they affect everyday lives in more ways than we can imagine – especially in the criminal justice system. We in Los Angeles County are experiencing good fortune for the D.A.s office is in good shape.”
Lacey thanked her predecessors for the benefit of their leadership: Cooley and those who were there to lend their support Gil Garcetti, Robert Philobosian and John Van de Kamp. She singled out Cooley for his leadership, for being her mentor and her biggest supporter outside of her family.
Back at the interview… She stated that her top priorities now 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,” Lacey said.
“The legislature will be in session in January. 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.”
In addition, she included an ambitious agenda saying: “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. There’s nothing worse than being lost in your own mental illness.”
At the Galen Center … “As of my first official day on the job, I have started to fulfill my commitment to you. I want to introduce to my ‘starting line-up’ as they say in sports.” She asked them to stand and be recognized to a resounding applause. And to the rest of the staff at the D.A.s office she proclaimed, “I will lead by example. 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.”
After a few other thank-you’s and some mentioning about her upbringing in the Crenshaw district, D.A. Lacey thank the crowd: “I am honored to be your District Attorney.”