Bay Area prosecutor denies institutional racism, cites Malcolm X, in response to #BlackLivesMattertoPublicDefenders public action.

David Twa and Board of Supervisors –

I am well aware of the very public discussion of race and the criminal justice system in light of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Also, I certainly recognize the rights of every individual to engage in freedom of speech. However, I was very disappointed today to see a county department head publicly criticize and accuse several other law enforcement partners of racial prejudice. Robin Lipetzky, the Contra Costa Public Defender, who is a county employee appointed by the Board of Supervisors, held a public rally on the courthouse steps today to which she invited the press. During that rally, Robin Lipetzky publicly criticized and accused several other law enforcement partners of disparate treatment of people based on their race. The video of Ms. Lipetzky’s comments can be viewed on the Contra Costa Times’ website.

She stated that the judicial branch of Contra Costa County treats individuals differently based on race “every day,” she claimed the Probation Department treats minority juveniles inappropriately because they are shackled at times, and she said the department maliciously “parades” shackled juveniles around publicly. She alleged racial bias against the Sheriff’s Office by claiming that minorities are “over-represented” in our jails. She also accused our District Attorney’s Office of making discriminatory criminal filing decisions based upon race.

As the District Attorney of Contra Costa County I want to state publicly that I disagree 100% with her allegations of racial prejudice by our law enforcement partners, the courts, the probation department, the Sheriff’s office, and our office. My experience with the Contra Costa judiciary for over 30 years has been that they decide criminal cases and issues based on the merits of the case, not on the skin color of the accused. Additionally, I have witnessed no racially biased treatment of probationers or accused by the Probation Department. Likewise, the Sheriff’s Office houses people in the jail based upon the crimes they commit, not their race. Finally, our office does not make filing decisions based upon the race of the accused.

Ms. Lipetzky’s comments are discourteous to her law enforcement partners, and other county agencies. Her comments are simply not true. Unfortunately, because her statements are so inaccurate and untrue, they simply further inflame racial tensions. If she truly wanted to address these alleged problems as she claims, she could certainly have asked for a private meeting to discuss these issues (which she did not), rather than hold a public rally to lambast other departments. It is very clear that her true motive was not to seek change, but to simply unfairly criticize and accuse others.

Additionally, it appears that Ms. Lipetzky encouraged her entire office of county employees to attend the political rally. Hopefully, Ms. Lipetzky did not require anyone to attend the rally.

I do not believe this type of behavior, i.e. largely unsubstantiated allegations of racist behavior by me and the entire criminal justice system here in our county is appropriate from any county employee/department head.

Mark Peterson District Attorney Contra Costa County

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