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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jackie Lacey Reflects On First Year as Los Angeles County District Attorney

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey talks exclusively with Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper about her first year in office.  Randy Economy Photo

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey talks exclusively with Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper about her first year in office. Randy Economy Photo

By Brian Hews and Brian Hews

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has a sign hanging on the wall near her bathroom inside her office that reads: “Put On Your Big Girl Panties and Deal With It!”

The sign inspires her and in her words “reminds me of the huge responsibility the people and voters have entrusted me with as District Attorney.”

Her election was historical. Lacey is the first female and first person of color to be elected as the top criminal prosecutor of the famed department that has overseen trials of some of the biggest and more famous legal cases in US history.

Next month Lacey celebrates her first year in office.

Lacey granted her first in-depth interview about her first year in office last month with Hews Media Group-Community News.  Lacey revealed in great detail how she has reshaped the office left by her predecessor District Attorney Steve Cooley who held the position for 16 years.

“The transition was smooth. I need to thank Steve for his encouragement and bits of wisdom now and then.  This is an awesome responsibility and so far, so good, knock on wood, we are off to a great start,” Lacey said.

Lacey was joined by Communications Director Jean Guccionie in the interview with HMG-CN.  Guccione has been a key part of Lacey’s new team to help bring more transparency and assistance to the DA’s office.

“News is so instant, we are constantly monitoring the media to see what’s going on, there is no vacation away from this job,” Lacey said.

“It is always interesting to see that the presence of social media sites, blogs, web news sites, Twitter and Facebook posts feature activities happening within the DA’s office as they take place,” she said.

Publisher Brian Hews, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Reporter Randy Economy visit after their interview in her office in Downtown LA.

Publisher Brian Hews, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Reporter Randy Economy visit after their interview in her office in Downtown LA.

In the new reality hyper-local era, Lacey said that her office watches and use social media to see what other departments are doing within the massive county that also includes hundreds municipalities, school districts, water districts, college boards, and other elected bodies.

“Social media is a great tool, and we want to keep tuned in to what’s happening, while it is happening,” she said.  “We are going to continue to use social media to inform the community of what we are doing, especially when we present local awards and hold other events.”

‘It’s a necessity that everyone has a Facebook page and that everyone Tweets,” she said, “and I am no exception.”

“I am most proud of the number of changes we have been able to implement in the first 10 months, especially in regards to investigating and prosecuting environmental crimes,” she said.

Lacey pointed to a wide swatch of Southeast Los Angeles County including the industrial City of Vernon where her office is looking into the possible illegal manufacturing of batteries at a plant facility.  She said that her office has already added new prosecutors who will be specially tackling “crimes against our environment.”

Lacey also confirmed in the interview that her office is working on details of prosecuting one of the largest retailers in Southern California for illegally disposing of medical waste products and that an announcement of possible prosecution in the case could take place as early as next week (the first week of October).

Lacey is also proud of the “leadership role” her office has taken on prisoner realignment due to the implementation of Assembly Bill 109 that shifts the responsibility from state officials to local county jurisdictions to deal with prisoners who are released back into the community due to overcrowded conditions in jails.

“The biggest challenge regarding realignment is figuring out accurate numbers, in other words, is crime going up, are we doing a better job than we have in the past?”

“Our office is taking the lead on this issue. We need to ask the question, are we better off having the state of California deal with prisoners or can we here at the county level do a better job?”

“The problem is recidivism, how many prisoners being released are committing crimes? We need to track that number to get an idea, and solve the problem, and we are doing that.”

Lacey also said that the closure of some local courthouses and the shifting of operating hours at other courts has created “a little bit of a strain on the DA’s operation.”

“Unfortunately, due to cutbacks and closures of some court houses, you are going to see cases take longer to going to trial.  When a case ages, it diminishes the chance of getting a conviction.  Witnesses can only remember back so far when it comes to specific details of a case, so we are concerned when a court room closes due to the economy,” Lacey stressed. “How many times can you bring the same witness to testify in a case just because you don’t have a place for a trial due to the fact that we have less court rooms available to try cases?”

“For every change there is an unintended consequence,” Lacey said during the interview.  “You just don’t change something and just hope that it happens, change takes work, lots of time and open mindedness.”

Lacey also highlighted a new program that specifically targets elder abuse. “We are warning our seniors about financial schemes, and not to fall for those,” she said.  The DA’s office is also planning several community outreach meetings as well as a public service announcement that actually feature her mother. “If it can happen to the DA’s mom, it can happen to you,” is the theme of the campaign. “My own mother was a victim of a financial scam.

The office is also focusing in on “cyber crimes” and will be presenting awards to businesses that have helped catch suspects involved in credit card theft.

Lacey is also committed to stop the increase of cyber-bullying crimes that have grabbed headlines across the nation for the past several months. “It’s hard to prosecute Cyber-Bullying Crimes.

The DA said that she has been following the developments of the story of Cassidy Lynn Campbell a transgender student at Marina High School who was a candidate and won the title of “Homecoming Queen” at the Huntington Beach based campus.

Campbell, who was born biologically male but identifies as female took the crown just over a month after the state’s governor signed a law to aid transgender youth in public schools.

“It is an amazing story, because in this day and time, here she wins, it is a historic and incredible accomplishment and then to read all of the horrible comments being left on blogs and under articles in newspapers, it has brought out the worst in people,” Lacey said.

“The racist and homophobic comments are being left by people who do not have the courage to leave their own real names, so it shields them and it allows them to be just cruel and mean and not have any repercussions, so seeing this take place has disturbed me,” she said.

Asked if she plan to personally contact Campbell, Lacey quickly responded, “yes, I should call her.  Talk about an inspiration to me. Cassidy has already changed the faces of many of our lives, she held her head up, she ran, and won.”

“I can’t imagine being a teenager and having to tell your parents, I don’t know about you but I was a nerd in high school. Parents need to love their children no matter what, there are enough people out there who will judge you, and I have two grown children, and I never want to be put in the position of having be someone who looks critically at their own lives,” Lacey said.

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