Chasing the dream?
The FOP picked Williams based on his plan for community-based prosecution to handle the city's 70,000 annual criminal cases. Under this method, already employed in Atlanta and Chicago, assistant district attorneys handle cases geographically, by neighborhood or police district. They also work directly with residents, community groups and police to address specific quality-of-life issues. Williams says the streamlined approach means fewer cases tossed out of court.Unfortunately, whether this will work is unknown -- or at least, nobody is reporting any data that shows concrete results -- so the endorsement seems to be mostly based on hope:
"Just that type of thinking alone, to do something different, is worth trying," says FOP chief of staff Eugene Blagmond, expressing concern for the high percentage of felony arrests dismissed from court. "Victims of crime should feel they can get justice. Police officers should feel if they arrest someone, that person will be brought to justice. Right now the system just doesn't work."It's definitely bad that such a large percentage of cases are getting thrown out for lack of prosecutor preparation, but somehow I'd like more than a leap of faith on which to base my voting out a dedicated incumbent. Surely there's more information that we could have in the next six weeks!
Update: thanks to a note in the Chestnut Hill newsletter, I found that Williams has a formal document (PDF) on his campaign website that explains his proposal in more detail. Its arguments for the new structure seem compelling -- i.e., there are ways that it avoids personnel bottlenecks that make prepared prosecution less likely -- but again, not much in the way of data from other cities (a little anecdotal coverage). Still, worth checking out, if you're trying to weigh the options under discussion.
[Note: I spent a while looking for information on these programs, and found lots of chewy and thoughtful research papers, but the most thorough of them (this PDF) spell out the difficulties in figuring out how to measure the success of these programs (and on what fronts). So perhaps there's no problem with local coverage. It seems like an interesting area of foment in public policy and legal theory.]
Also, there's a discussion forum that might give many folks a chance to see Williams and Abraham in person, certainly answering questions even if not formally in a debate, tomorrow night. For event information, see this.