The criminal justice record of Sen. Kamala Harris continues to be a touchpoint in the election, as driven home by the vice-presidential debate Wednesday between Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.
Harris “invoked her record as a prosecutor, saying she was the only candidate with direct experience on issues of criminal justice,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
But that experience was used by Pence, who, while affirming the “law and order” theme of President Trump’s campaign, said to Harris, “When you were DA in San Francisco, when you left office, African Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses than whites and Hispanics.”
“When you were attorney general of California, you increased the disproportionate incarceration of blacks in California,” Pence continued. “You did nothing on criminal justice.”
According to aol.com, “Harris, who served as the district attorney for San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, has, in fact, faced a large amount of scrutiny over her records in those two law enforcement positions.”
Critics say that Harris strove to uphold wrongful convictions, filed appeals against arguments fighting the use of the death penalty and vigorously prosecuted low-level marijuana offenses.
Harris’ response to Pence’s attacks at the debate was “I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president about what it means to enforce the laws of our country.”
Harris said, “Having served as the attorney general of the state of California, the work that I did is a model of what our nation needs to do and we will be able to do under a Joe Biden presidency.
“Our agenda includes what this administration has failed to do. It will be about not only instituting a ban on chokeholds and carotid holds.”
“I was the first statewide officer,” she added, “to institute a requirement that my agents would wear body cameras and keep them on full-time.”
According to a fact check by Calmatters.org, “As California’s top prosecutor, Harris did mandate body cameras for agents of the state Justice Department — but they represented a sliver of policing in the state.”
Calmatter.org said, “At the time she opposed a body-camera requirement for all law enforcement officers in California, saying in 2015 that ‘we should invest in the ability of law enforcement leaders in specific regions and with their departments to use … discretion to figure out what technology they are going to adopt based on needs that they have and resources that they have.’ ”
While she was in office in California, a new re-entry program as well as an implicit bias training curriculum were developed, and Harris touted such achievements at the debate.
Calmatters.org pointed out. “Although she sponsored legislation requiring all police officers to receive that training, the bill stalled in the Legislature and subsequent efforts have also failed.”
At the debate, when asked if justice was serviced in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, Harris said, “I don’t think so. Her family deserves justice. Her life was unjustifiably taken.”
Pence said he supported the Louisville grand jury decision in the Taylor case, saying Taylor’s family “has our sympathies, but I trust our justice system, a grand jury that reviews the evidence.”
Pence criticized the violence that accompanied some of the protests. Appearing to address law enforcement, Pence said, “President Trump and I stand with you.”
Pence also said America was not “systemically racist” and there was no implicit bias in law enforcement.
This summary was prepared by TCR Deputy Editor Nancy Bilyeau