D.A. Candidate Jackie Lacey Speaks on Being The Adult in the Room

  • 05/13/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

A candidate like Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey with credentials that include more than 25 years of experience in the District Attorney’s Office, 10 years as second in command of the office, and an endorsement from a well liked outgoing district attorney, would make an intimidatingly formidable candidate. But with Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich’s million dollar war chest and an endorsement list that looks like Democratic Who’s Who list, the race looks more like a fight between David and Goliath.

Lacey notes that Trutanich has more than just a few chinks in his armor citing County Sheriff Lee Baca’s continued role as honorary chairman of Trutanich’s campaign despite a steady stream of problems dogging the sheriff’s department this year, ranging from deputies allegedly engaging in inappropriate relationships with teenage students in the Explorers’ program, secret cliques that see officer involved shootings as a badge of honor and allegations of routine abuse of inmates in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.

“At the end of 2012 many of the cases that we’ve been reading about will end up in the District Attorney’s Office,” Lacey noted. “No one knows how far up the chain we’ll end up going.”

Lacey said she doesn’t suspect anything nefarious going on in the chain of command necessarily, but that based on her experience it will be found that some high ranking people that were in charge of the jail knew what was going on.

“I don’t  suspect you will find the sheriff himself was told, “hey they were beating up on prisoners in mass” and he said do nothing about it,” she said.

In regards to realignment, a statewide change that shifted thousands of nonviolent felons to county jails and supervised probation, she generally agrees but feels it was hastily implemented.

“Realignment was a sea change  and it occurred very quickly,” Lacey explained. “It was set up so that the probation department can do a lot of monitoring. But probation officers, except for a small elite group, are not armed and probation officers are not trained to monitor this population of inmates.”

Lacey rattled off other woes the department has faced, including frequent leadership changes in the last two years, and the lack of money for mental health services even while the county supervisors keep demanding more information about whether parolees are completing the treatment programs.

To ensure that the penal system under realignment functions efficiently, Lacey, like District Attorney Steve Cooley, want to add on more serious felony crimes eligible for state prison terms that now only warrants being housed in local jails.

“The district attorney has to add back in some of those crimes that were left on what we call the N3 List because some criminals need the threat of state prison,” she said.

She also believes there needs to be an expansion of alternative sentencing, rather than just send all offenders to jail.

“We need to look for some lower level offenders we can refer out for probationary terms for counseling or drug  treatment or mental health counseling.”

With the 1992 Los Angeles riots anniversary, leaders from various corners credit the gang truces, the Los Angeles Police Department’s conversion to community policing, or the work of Three Strikes in getting thousands of violent criminals off the street. Lacey noted that no one really knows the exact reason why crime has continued to fall precipitously to historic lows but believes the the DA’s jobs is to help maintain that trend. Lacey counts civil rights lawyer and one of the authors of the Rampart Report, Connie Rice as a personal friend.

Lacey touts her years of managing the law office and her leadership style, contrasted mostly with Trutanich as testimony of her ability to change attitude toward enforcing the law within the department. She noted that her first management job was as director of central operations. It was there that she decided to take some corporate leadership workshop to bolster her skills in the new position. One of the things she said she learned was the importance as well as the “how to’s” of connecting and inspiring everyone on her team to give their very best.

“You have to care about people,” Lacey said. “You can’t be a crash and burn or my way or the highway kind of leader. You can’t or people won’t follow you. They may do the bare minimum of what you tell them to do.

“I’m the kind of person that inspires people to do their best.”

She cites her success as director of central operations in raising the department’s  trial success rates up as well as the implementation of the Los Angeles County Women’s Re-entry Court,  Co-Occurring Disorders Court,  and Veterans Court.

In an editorial board meeting with the Daily Breeze, Lacey said she was going to reestablish the environmental crimes division noting that the division shrunk from a high of 40 investigators to one because of dwindling resources. When asked if would able to maintain such a division with existing resources, Lacey said that she could move around some resources with the closing of some courthouses.

“The key to environmental cases is in the investigation,” Lacey explained. “If you don’t have the investigation you won’t be able to go to court. So with the closure of courts I think it’s quite possible that we can redirect environmental crimes.

“It’s ridiculous, here we are in Southern California we have a lot of natural resources and we need to have a presence in this field and we need to have the investigative resources to put on crimes like that.”

Lacey isn’t a fan of medical marijuana, she has no qualm in enforcing state law. Her issue however, is the regulation of pot dispensaries and their abidance with the spirit of Proposition 215 that decreed that such dispensaries be nonprofit entities that follow zoning rule in terms of place near schools and family and parks.

“Without passing judgment on medical marijuana, the dispensaries bring in vagrancy, they  brings in crime … it attracts a certain element,” Lacey explained.

Lacey grasped at the well-worn cliché “a bull in a China shop”  to describe Trutanich management style, citing the time she spent on his transition team when he was first elected Los Angeles’ city attorney.

In her campaign materials and her stock answers to interview questions, she notes that she is “the adult in the room.”

“When I say I’m the adult in the room, I’m saying I don’t have temper tantrums,” she explains. “I understand that I can go anywhere and meet with any group of people and find common ground. That’s what I mean.”

Lacey obliquely references Trutanich noting that, “There are a lot of people running don’t have that experience, who don’t have that seasoning.”

Lacey recalled the 1999 shooting spree of white supremacist Buford Furrow of  Jewish community centers that wounded five people and killed mail carrier. The case garnered wide publicity, and to hear Lacey tell it,  entice  the U.S. attorney to file hate crime charges. She suggested there was a good deal of haggling of what, where and how to charge the shooter. Furrow was ultimately charged with murder, six counts of civil rights violations and nine weapons charges.

“The deal is you have to come at people on common ground,” she said. “You have to be an adult.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jackie graduated from Dorsey High School, and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in 1979. She graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) Law School in 1982.

 Jackie is married to David Lacey, an investigative auditor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The Laceys have two adult children.

U.S. Congressman Howard Berman
District Attorney Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County
Former State Senator Martha Escutia
Former Assembly Member George Nakano
Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks
Former Los Angeles City Councilman David Cunningham

Jackie won national attention for her successful prosecution of the county’s first race-motivated hate crime. In that case, People v. Rojas, Bryant and Colwell, three Nazi Low Riders beat an older African-American man to death behind an Antelope Valley convenience store to earn their gang tattoos. All three defendants were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Jackie was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2000 for prosecuting this case and for participating on the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee.

Visit www.jackielacey.com for more information.

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *