To the Editor:
I write to give my enthusiastic endorsement to the candidacy of Mimi Rocah for Westchester County District Attorney and to urge my fellow Westchester residents to vote for her in the June 23 Democratic primary. Having grown up in New Rochelle and then returned to the county with my wife ten years ago to raise our children in Hastings-on-Hudson, I care very deeply about issues of justice and fairness in Westchester.
Mimi is my friend and was my colleague when we served as federal prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. I experienced first-hand her leadership, talent, and deep sense of even-handed justice when she was the Chief of the Westchester Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a position that put her in charge of all federal prosecutions in Westchester and five counties north and west of us.
I know, as former President Obama reminded us earlier this month, that “the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.” When the circumstances warrant it, law enforcement authorities may intrude into the most personal, intimate aspects of our lives — our mail can be read; our phone calls can be listened to; our homes can be entered; we can be placed under arrest and taken off to be interrogated. These are awesome powers. And in the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system, nobody is entrusted with more discretion in terms of how to exercise these powers and how to shape the direction of law enforcement than the District Attorney. That is why it is so critical that we put the right person in that office.
Mimi is that person. What she has chosen to campaign shows us what she cares deeply about: taking guns off the streets; transforming the way we identify and prosecute sexual violence and sex crimes; creating a dedicated unit to address human trafficking. But Mimi offers more than ideas for cracking down on crime. She is striving to make the criminal justice system more fair. That is something we all should care deeply about, especially in these times. The first step in doing that is to make the system more transparent, and Mimi will introduce a sweeping set of transparency policy reforms. And then there is her plan to establish a true Conviction Integrity Unit. Think about that — she is seeking our vote to be the county’s top law enforcement officer with a promise not only to prosecute offenders, but to identify wrongful convictions and right them. That is a courageous commitment to pursue justice.
Mimi knows that the criminal justice system is not a game to be won at all costs. The prosecutor’s job is to fight hard to convict criminals and at the same time to make the tough and sometimes unpopular calls not to prosecute because the evidence is not there or not to seek the toughest sentence. It is about always trying to do the right thing so that we ensure the legitimacy and fairness of the system.
I cannot think of any traits more important to a prosecutor than toughness, fairness, and empathy. Mimi has them in spades. They are what guided her when she led scores of federal prosecutions; they are what she taught the legions of prosecutors she mentored and supervised; and they are what she will bring to the District Attorney’s office. We need a person like Mimi to be our District Attorney, now more than ever.
Hastings on Hudson