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District attorneys seek limits on police union campaign donations

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Supporters cheer San Francisco District Attorney candidate Chesa Boudin at his election night party in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay.ca)

A group of current and former Bay Area district attorneys on Monday called on the California State Bar to ban prosecutors seeking election from receiving political and financial support from law enforcement unions.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar and former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón held a virtual news conference to call for the state bar to end police union influence on local elections.

The group argued that prosecutors cannot ethically investigate and prosecute police misconduct when police unions, sheriff’s offices and correctional divisions offer their endorsements and financial support. That conflict of interest also erodes public trust in law enforcement, they said.

Boudin said:

“I think it’s apparent to all of us today that America has a crisis of trust in law enforcement. … It’s a crisis that you can see unfolding on the streets all across this great country.”

The group chose to call for the change as protests engulf the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Ideally, the group said, the American Bar Association would make similar changes to prohibit endorsements and campaign contributions from law enforcement unions and groups.

Verber Salazar said:

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us to restore trust in our profession, but trust must be earned, it cannot be demanded. … The first step to earning that trust back is ensuring the independence of county prosecutors is beyond reproach.”

The group advised supporters of their proposal to follow the hashtag #CureTheConflict on major social media websites for updates on a potential ban of law enforcement union endorsements and campaign contributions in local elections for prosecutors.

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