Can El-Shabazz Win Over Voters Despite His Tax Debts, Ties to Seth Williams?

The district attorney candidate, who was Williams’s number two for several months, faces a challenging campaign.

Tariq El-Shabazz | Photo courtesy of El-Shabazz's campaign

Tariq El-Shabazz | Photo courtesy of El-Shabazz’s campaign

Tariq El-Shabazz, a Democrat running for district attorney, has baggage. A lot of baggage.

Philly.com reported that there are more than $190,000 in tax lien judgements filed against him, and his former law firm was taken to court six times for failing to pay rent. El-Shabazz says he is now in a payment plan, but refuses to reveal how much money he’s paid toward his debts. That’s not all: A petition for a protection-from-abuse order was filed against him and later withdrawn, according to Philadelinquency. From September 2016 to February 2017, El-Shabazz was also the righthand man to District Attorney Seth Williams, who abandoned his reelection campaign amid questions about $175,000 worth of gifts that he failed to report as well an FBI investigation into his finances.

To win the D.A.’s race, El-Shabazz will need to convince voters that he is independent from Williams and can manage an office with a $52 million budget despite his own financial problems. “I know for a fact those liens did not prevent me from doing the job that I needed to do when I was in the D.A.’s office,” he says. “However, they are debt that needs to be handled and they are being handled.”

El-Shabazz, who has worked as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, recently sat down with Philly Mag for an interview in Center City. He talked about his debts; his plan to end cash bail for nonviolent, low-level offenders; and why he thinks law-enforcement officials need to attack the “root” problem of violent crime. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. Read our Q&As with the other D.A. candidates in the May 16th election here.


Tariq El-Shabazz’s Platform at a Glance

  • Death penalty: Supports Gov. Wolf’s moratorium on capital punishment.
  • Civil asset forfeiture: “No innocent grandmother should ever have their home taken in our society.”
  • Cash bail: He says cash bail should be abolished for nonviolent, low-level offenses.
  • Gifts: He wouldn’t accept gifts as D.A.
  • Super PACs: “Super PACs are the reality of politics now.”
  • On how to fight crime: Get guns off the street, teach young people how to resolve conflicts, and attack the “root” of the problem instead of “attacking the result.”
  • On whether bad cops are sufficiently held accountable: “For anyone to say that there hasn’t been black lives taken or beaten, or people of color abused at the hands of bad police officers, would be lying.”

Why are you running for D.A.?
One of the things that has always been very important to me is service. I think that is seen in what I do, and it seems now that there is a crying out for criminal justice reform, and that that cry for criminal justice reform is from reformers that are not seen as in the box of politics. When I woke up on November 9th, 2016, it became clear to me that the rights that exist constitutionally and civil rights for people are and would be in jeopardy because of the election of the president with the platform that he had. It became blatantly honest and blatantly clear with the appointment and confirmation of Jeff Sessions. And so if people are going to have their rights protected, if we’re really going to talk about judging people fairly, having transparency, having justice, if we’re really going to talk about those things, then we need to have people in place that have legitimate ideas and platforms and the experience to do that.

When I look at the basis of my career, first dawning in the District Attorney’s office and then opening my own practice and doing defense work and then coming back home into the District Attorney’s office, it has supplied me with the tools that are necessary to address mass incarceration. … But I think the most important thing is trying to attack systemically the issues that I think are in the system and in the office. And it’s not something that began four, eight, 12 years ago, 16 years ago. It is something that is actually ingrained in that system and in training and recruiting. And so when I think about those things and how I can be of service, I think the best way that I can be of service is in an area where I’ve spent the majority of my life. I’ve been a lawyer longer than I’ve been anything else in my life. So I want to help people, I want to develop a trust that no longer exists. I want to actually develop true justice. I want to actually involve true families. I want to have empathy not just for the victim, but for those that are accused and the family members that suffer as a result of someone being victimized or someone being incarcerated, and then make decisions that are tough decisions that everybody’s not going to agree with. But if you show people that there is a valid reason for that decision, then you have facts and evidence that exist and that based upon the facts and evidence and the interpretation of the law, that is the best decision to be made, people will respect it. So the short answer is to serve people.

What are the proudest moments or biggest accomplishments of your career, in your opinion?
There are a lot of proud moments, too many to kind of put together and section off. But I will say this: I think that one of the proudest accomplishments during my career was actually dealing in the then-infamous Lex Street murder case. The first one, not the second one. The first one, I had the opportunity to be on trial or involved in the case with some of probably the brightest legal minds that Philadelphia has to offer. And we worked in conjunction with the police department, with the judge, with the prosecutor in some respect and with each other, doing the investigation. And [because of] the questioning and the back-and-forth, we were able to, at that stage, make the determination that these guys were innocent. They were the wrong guys. They didn’t do it. And it showed me that the system actually works, and it works from us working together. That is one of my proudest moments … because there are a lot of times that you don’t see the system working together. You don’t see stakeholders working together, and true justice is when the actual result is what the results should be.

It’s been reported that you have more than $190,000 in federal, state, and city tax lien judgements. What payments have you made toward those debts and how did you get them in the first place?
The reported amount, first of all, is incorrect and inaccurate. There was a $52,000 lien. It was all reported, and it was reported because it was on the record that should not have been in the record. That was satisfied. That’s the first thing. The second thing, in response to your question, was that I was a business owner of a practice for 20-some odd years. And in doing the taxes and having accountants that do the taxes, and putting that together, we filed taxes and those taxes were reviewed. And in reviewing those taxes, we may have a disagreement with the IRS in terms of how much is owed, and as a result of that disagreement, you have penalties and interest and so it increases.

So it created that atmosphere, and that atmosphere is based upon the number that they came up with. And it is tax that I owe, meaning you fight the taxes or you owe the taxes that I owe. It’s a civil debt that is being handled through a payment plan. The city taxes that I just spoke of, with regard to them, those things are being taken care of. I’ll say this, though. I don’t believe that those liens — in fact, I know for a fact those liens did not prevent me from doing the job that I needed to do when I was in the D.A.’s office. However, they are debt that needs to be handled and they are being handled.

Again, how much have you paid toward those payment plans?
I will say this: Specifically at this time — and let me emphasize at this time — I can’t bring that information.

Another thing that was reported was that your former law firm was taken to court six times for not paying rent. That speaks to a different issue than the IRS and a citizen disagreeing over how much tax is owed.
There were six occasions that [my landlord] spoke of, but they’re not six judgements. In other words, the process would be if the rent was late — and sometimes the rent was late — there would be a filing, and there would be a court date. And then you go to the court date, and if you in fact had the rent at that time the case was dismissed, sometimes, and I’m not going to speak for my landlord, sometimes that’s used as a tool to encourage payment. But I would say that that’s what happened with respect to it. That’s why it’s not six judgments. But six criminal cases, or civil cases.

What would you say to voters who are worried that you won’t able to responsibly oversee the D.A.’s $52 million budget given your tax liens?
I would say to those voters and those citizens simply this: The captain of the ship oversees the ship. One of the things that the captain tries to do is to put people in place who have the expertise to advise, to in fact run certain segments. Just like you would get someone who is the head of homicide, you get someone who is the CFO, chief of staff, to oversee exactly what’s going on with the budget. As a result of overseeing that, they can advise me as I look at that. As I look at that, I can make decisions based upon advice that I get from qualified people as to which way we should go. The tax — I would submit in response to this question — isn’t a result of not being able to manage. I think of it more as a result of trying to do too much instead of having people in place that have the expertise that can give the advice that was necessary to make sure that was done.

Philadelinquency also reported that there was a petition for a protection-from-abuse order filed against you. It was later withdrawn. Why was that filed?
Good question. Why it was filed, I can’t explain that. What I can explain to you is that a petition was filed for a protective order. That petition was withdrawn and sealed by the court. Because it was withdrawn and sealed by the court, then there’s not much that I can comment on in terms of the substance. But the fact that it was withdrawn and sealed should be information that I think people can kind of gather what that was about.

How would you grade District Attorney Seth Williams’s job performance?
District Attorney Williams is, first and foremost, not a candidate in this race. But let me say this much: There are decisions that he made as the district attorney that were beneficial and ones that were not. We are entirely two different people in terms of our thought processes in various different avenues. What I can say is that an El-Shabazz office is going to be one that’s just. It’s going to be one that’s fair. It’s going to be one that is transparent. It’s going to be one that is receptive to the community and hopefully the community will be receptive to it. As to grading him, I don’t see that as a position that I should take. I think the position I should take is how do I envision my administration? And that’s the way I envision my administration.

I want to ask about some of the high-profile decisions that Williams made. One was his decision to refer to the Attorney General’s office a case involving an alleged assault by labor leader John Dougherty. He said that was necessary due to his “long-standing professional relationship” with Dougherty. Was that the right choice?
The district attorney has the discretion, when there is conflict or the potential of conflict, to in fact ask that a case be assumed by a different jurisdiction, whether it be the federal government, the attorney general, or another county D.A. They have that discretion. And that is a call that is personal to that relationship between the district attorney and the person that is being investigated. And what I mean by that is that it is always a complex case when it involves someone who is political, or involved in politics in some way shape or form, or someone who has a level of popularity. And so those decisions are ones that you would have to know … all of the factors that occur. I wasn’t in the office at the time and I don’t know those. But I do know that there are times when that is the most prudent decision to make.

When Lynne Abraham was D.A., she referred basically any case involving elected officials to state or federal authorities, in order to avoid a conflict, she said. Was that the right call?
I think there’s a balance in between that. I think that referring all cases involving political figures to other agencies, some may see it as — and I’m not suggesting that this is how Lynne Abraham was — but some may see it as shirking responsibility. … I think it has to happen on a case-by-case basis.

Another one of District Attorney Williams’s controversial decisions was to keep in office three prosecutors who had been involved in the Porngate scandal. Do you think that was the right choice?
Let me say this: From the first day of my administration, it will be clear that no misogynistic, racist, sexist, or any other type of derogatory emails will be sent, created, or forwarded on government computers. And if that happens, the people will be fired. That’s what I can say with respect to that.

District Attorney Williams also decided not to charge ex-Eagles player LeSean McCoy for his alleged role in a bar fight with two off-duty cops. Do you think that was the right call?
In the District Attorney’s office, for as long as I’ve been a member and been practicing law in and outside that office, there are decisions made not to prosecute individuals for what some may otherwise see as an assault or an aggravated assault, simple assault. Every day. What makes this case different is it was LeSean McCoy. So the decision really wasn’t as complex as it is being made to be. It involved off-duty police officers and it was LeSean McCoy. But if it was John from South Philadelphia engaging in the club or barroom fight with James from North Philadelphia, and facts existed that did not make it clear for prosecution, we would have never heard of it. So it wasn’t unique other than being LeSean McCoy and police officers.

What would you say to voters who were not happy with D.A. Williams — whether it’s because of his policies or the gifts he took or the cloud over his office due to the FBI investigation into him — and are concerned that you were his number two? Are you running for a third term of Seth Williams?
That’s a fair question. That’s the first thing I would say to them. The second thing I would say to them is that the cause of District Attorney Williams’s clouds occurred way before my seven months there. And so I had no involvement in any of those decisions or anything that occurred. I would also say that for those seven months there, the office has been progressive. For those seven months there, the policies have started to be shaped and changed. For those seven months there, the camaraderie within the office started to develop again, the morale of the office started to rise. In fact, one of the most interesting things that happened to me is, when I announced my resignation, a number of people in that office were visibly upset that I was leaving, visibly bothered because of the relationships that we developed. So what I would say to the voters and I would say to the citizens of Philadelphia that I am my own man, I have my own mind, I have my own style and way of doing things, imperfect like everyone else.

But I have the ability, the skill set, trial acumen, the judgment from both being a prosecutor and the defense attorney, the leadership ability, the ability to stand up for what is right and to stand against what is wrong, and who doesn’t shy away from giving my reasons as to why a decision is made. And those are the qualities that make me, I think, the best candidate for district attorney here. And I’m a little different than Seth, and he’s different than I.

What’s your position on civil asset forfeiture, the practice that allows district attorneys to seize someone’s cash and homes even without a conviction?
No innocent grandmother should ever have their home taken in our society, especially in our community. You may find a grandmother that has her son living with her or even a great-grandson living with her, and those individuals may be involved in some activity that is alleged to be criminal. Grandma shouldn’t have her house taken, especially if she’s an innocent grandma. The criminal justice system should work with respect to those individuals that are accused, and no money, no car, no property, no assets should be taken prior to a judicial determination on whether or not the person is guilty or not guilty.

So would you require there to be a conviction before someone’s assets can be seized?
Absolutely. What I would ask, though, is that the assets may be frozen, so that other than locking someone out of the home in ways that you can do that, by ensuring that the person that is accused at this particular point lives with another relative while that is going on. Absolutely. I think that is unconstitutional, to be quite honest with you — to take the assets of an individual before it’s been proven that those assets were proceeds of a drug transaction or some type of criminal activity.

Some have proposed that, when the district attorney seizes someone’s assets or cash, those proceeds should go to the school district or another entity instead of the District Attorney’s office. They say that would take away the financial incentive for the D.A. What do you think about that?
That is a good idea. But there are several avenues and several things in which the assets can be used for. For example, there are a lot of diversionary programs that I have in the platform and I would like to do, some of which are dealing directly with juveniles, others that deal with other individuals with nonviolent offenses. Those programs have to be financed, and sometimes it’s difficult getting the money from City Council, and the city may not have the money to afford to give to the District Attorney’s office. But if we’re really talking about criminal justice reform, we have to finance those reformative things, those diversionary programs. You have to pay for social workers. We have to pay for drug and alcohol counselors, employment counselors, GED programs, education, sometimes home placement. You only can do that with money. … I don’t mean to say that we’re not going to give it the education, but I think if we can finance diversionary programs, prevent incarceration and actually assist people, it can be beneficial there, too.

While you were in the D.A.’s office, did you take steps to try to curb some of the aggressive examples of civil asset forfeiture that you talked about, such as the grandmother whose home is seized because her grandson is dealing drugs?
In fact, the creation of some of the thought processes that I’m talking to you about began there, in the office, when we began to explore what was happening with civil asset forfeiture. Our stakeholders, our partners, the judges, had really at that point frozen any activity of civil forfeiture because it was an ongoing lawsuit. And so we were trying to work through — when I say “we,” I’m talking about me and those individuals that are responsible for developing this type of platform — [and] come up with ideas of how we can really remedy the problem of the civil suit and benefit the community. So did we actually put processes in place at that time? No, because these were things I was thinking about, and I was in there for seven months, unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it. So I haven’t had an opportunity to do that. But I can assure you that that is one of the priorities on the agenda of an El-Shabazz District Attorney’s office.

Where do you stand on the use of cash bail?
No cash bail for nonviolent offenses — makes no sense to have. There are other avenues you can have. You can have day reporting. You can offer drug and alcohol treatment, you can offer employment opportunities, you can offer sometimes mental health services that are needed. If you explore those nonviolent offenses, you find that there is a reason why people are engaged in that type of activity. Sometimes it’s because of drugs, sometimes it’s because of alcohol, sometimes it’s because of not being able to eat, sometimes it’s because of unemployment or miseducation. Those are ills that if we take care of, we can take care of the incarceration of holding people pre-trial. Additionally, it is a way to alleviate the mass incarceration of people just sitting in jail. Being away from the family, being away from children, being away from any services that they may have.

What is your position on the death penalty?
I am fully in support of the moratorium [on the death penalty] of Governor Wolf. There is no question that the death penalty has been applied disproportionately to African-Americans and Hispanics and non-white people, no doubt about that. And there is no doubt that in some of what we thought were good convictions, it’s later been determined that there was an error and it’s not a good conviction. You can’t reverse it when someone is in fact killed based upon the death penalty. The other reality is … since [1978], there’s only been two executions. And those were two individuals that say, “I don’t want to appeal anything, I just want to die.” Other than that, we’re warehousing people, going through appeal after appeal after appeal, and that money that we are wasting in terms of resources and energy can be put toward reforming criminal justice.

Thirdly, it does not in any way shape or form, based on any statistics that I’ve seen thus far, act as a deterrent from anyone else doing anything else. So I agree with the moratorium. I am in favor of that. I’m in favor of studying and looking at the disproportionate application of this law and whether or not that law does anything, and I think we could find out whether or not it did anything for deterring crime.

What is your plan to fight crime and homicides?
Violent crimes and homicide are the result of something bigger than just the shooting of a gun. Prime example: The availability of guns on the street is a problem. The inability to deal with conflict resolution is a problem. A lot of that comes from the frustration that people have because of employment, drug use, heat of passion-type arguments, territorial-type arguments, the drug trade. In order to deal with any issue, you have to get to the root of the issue. And I don’t think we have attacked the root. I think that we spend a lot of time attacking the result. And the result is often the shots being fired.

How do we get to the shot being fired? What are we doing about the sale of guns and the availability of guns? What are we doing about taking guns off the street? What are we doing about conflict resolution from the juvenile stage up? You can’t get someone 25 years old and try to talk to them about conflict resolution; you have to talk to them about it when they’re younger. And I think that one of the ways to do it is from a different standpoint, and that different standpoint is that we’re not going to arrest our way and incarcerate our way out of homicides and violent crimes. They’ve been doing it forever. It hasn’t done anything yet. But you’ve got to give people hope. And in addition to giving them hope, you have to give them opportunity. We’ve had a lot of hope, or people talking about a hope, especially in this race, when no one is coming up with what the opportunities are and different programs that we have to do, and being involved in the street, in the community, talking to people.

What programs are you proposing to do those things?
I’ve been involved in a program in Graterford [Prison] named “Real Street Talk.” I was involved in it prior to coming to the D.A.’s office and continued it even as first assistant. Real Street Talk is a group of lifers and other individuals — some people are not serving life — that actually are trying to effectuate change from Graterford in the streets and in the city and county of Philadelphia. I’ve gone there and I said to them, “Listen, there have been three shootings in this particular area. Who’s from that area? Call them. Tell them to put the guns down.” And they’re actually able to get on the phone and talk to someone there and curtail the violence. They’ve come up with, and I’ve adapted as part of the platform, a mentorship program. Now people look at me funny when I say it: “Why does a mentorship program want to bring people to Graterford? You gonna bring people to Graterford to teach them how to be better criminals?” No, and these individuals are people that are respected, that have been where a lot of people are that are locked up for crimes, and that have grown and developed and matured to the point where they have the ability to talk to these individuals, and they can talk to the young men in ways that a lot of us can’t. They can talk to them about, you know, “The way you’re heading, it’s not like that. I came in here I was 15 years old. And I’m still here as a result of the bad decision that I made. ”

There’s a program that I want to develop that is a mentorship program, in a form of a diversionary program, that will take juveniles and young adults, but more so juveniles and prior to giving them an arrest record. I’m not even talking about arrests, and then you get a diversion program and that’s expunged. I’m saying prior to that, we put you in this program where you’re going to be required to have a mentor with someone in Graterford, and talks with the warden to give us a space in where they can meet. There is an actual criteria that Real Street Talk put together, different steps, and if these steps are completed, the person never even gets an arrest.

Do you think there are racial disparities in charging and sentencing in Philadelphia? And if so, how would you address that as D.A.?
Yes, there are, based upon stereotypes and based upon systemic beliefs of how people act and why they act the way that they do. The charging unit in the District Attorney’s office — and I have to say this — they do a pretty good job of kind of meshing through some of the cases that shouldn’t be brought. But every once in a while, there’s something different. You get a case that comes through that really should have been handled differently. But it’s not just the charging D.A.s. We have to deal with the systemic issues of the police department.

Even though there’s not a “policy” of stop-and-frisk, there’s officers that go into certain communities and stop and frisk people. To say that the officer is making objective findings and based upon the objectivity that he sees, he’s making an arrest, I think, is an overgeneralization because sometimes the racial disparity comes out. But that’s something that is innate in people. So you’re not going to change that in the department; you’ve got to change that in people. And the way that you do that is becoming involved in community. You have to have more community policing and more community involvement involved with respect to the assistant district attorneys. And you have to develop relationships in neighborhoods. That’s why sometimes, in Philadelphia, you can go into a particular block and it’s unbelievable, it’s immaculate, people care about one another, and then you go one block over, and it’s run down. That’s the leadership of the block. And then sometimes you can go in a section and that’s the leadership of that particular neighborhood. And then sometimes you can go into a particular portion of the city and ask the leadership of that city. Well, that tells us that if we have strong leadership at the base level, the grassroots level, we can have it trickle up instead of thinking that everything’s going to trickle down.

Are you seeking support from the Fraternal Order of Police?
I’m willing to sit down with everyone, including [FOP president John] McNesby, and have a conversation with him about what my platform is and what it is that we hope to bring here. And if, in fact, my ideas of the of my platform and how I envision the District Attorney’s office meets with his fundamental ideas in terms of what he wants to do with the police department, we have a marriage. And if not, then we won’t.

What is your position on gifts? Would you take them as D.A.?
There’s a zero-tolerance policy that would be instituted from the first day I walk in office … [no] gifts taken of any sort, by myself or any member of the District Attorney’s office, even if it’s a cup of coffee. That type of activity erodes the public trust, intentionally or unintentionally, and we have to reestablish a public trust.

How do you feel about super PACs? Should they be involved in the district attorney’s race, and would you be OK with it if one supported you?
Super PACs are the reality of politics now. If, in fact, there was a super PAC whose fundamental principles were consistent with mine and they wanted to support this candidacy, I will participate in what is fundamentally involved in politics right now.

District Attorney Rich Negrin says he will not take campaign contributions from criminal defense attorneys that may stand across from him in court. What do you think of that?
I think this is campaign hyperbole. The reality is there are tens of thousands of cases that come through the District Attorney’s office. There are some people that are practicing civil law now that may take a criminal case. There are some people that are in firms now that represent a litigation department and every once in a while they take a criminal case. It is impossible to know who is going to be doing what at what particular time. Are we questioning the integrity of everybody that does criminal work?

Philadelphia has seen an extraordinarily high number of opioid overdoses recently. How would you deal with that issue, if at all, as D.A.?
The opioid epidemic is a disease. It is something that has to be attacked from a treatment standpoint. It reminds me of the 1980s, when there was an epidemic of crack cocaine that in fact really hit my community and inflated violence and activity similar to the opioid epidemic. We didn’t handle it correctly back then because what happened was the legislature passed mandatory minimums at the behest of district attorneys. And we began to incarcerate and incarcerate and incarcerate, federally and stately.

So now we’re faced with mass incarceration that is a result of some of the things that we did in the ’80s, which is why President Obama did what he did with respect to drug crimes. So we can’t incarcerate ourselves out of it. We have to treat ourselves out of it. That is, treat low-level drug possessors and drug addicts with treatment. And those individuals that are really the source of flooding our community with these drugs. Work together with the federal and state agencies to go after them, not the person addicted but the person that is the actual supplier, to the degree that we actually cut the root of the tree as opposed to just cutting off some branches or leaves.

How would you deal with users of other drugs, specifically?
If it is evident that the person that is possessing those nonviolent drugs is a user — not a seller — then it seems to me that we don’t benefit by giving that person a felony. Who benefits from that? Now we create a situation where that person may not get a job to the end of it. We benefit by trying to treat that. And so we give options to those individuals to participate in particular programs, to actually kick the habit if you want to kick the habit and try to treat our way out of this epidemic instead of imprison our way out of it.

Black Lives Matter argues that bad cops are often not held accountable. Do you agree with that? And how do you think District Attorney Williams has handled cases in which police officers commit crimes?
For anyone to say that there hasn’t been black lives taken or beaten, or people of color abused at the hands of bad police officers, would be lying. They must have been living under a rock for some years. It happens. But not all police activity is illegal. We have to get into a situation where we can regain the public trust, and it’s difficult. I think what’s important to know is that there are and there were a lot of people who were police officers arrested, more than under the Abraham administration, under D.A. Williams’s administration. …

These cases are tried in a courtroom. If the judge or the jury makes a determination that the person is not guilty, then that person walks out of that courtroom like anyone else, and is able to get their job back. The are other ways to attack it. Prime example: There was an officer years ago that decided he wanted to shoot up his car. He shot himself, and one of the reasons that he did it that way is that he pretended there was an African-American that did it. And there was an outrage from people in the community about prosecuting him: “Put him in jail, put them under the rug.” When you looked at the evidence of the case and where the case will be tried, there was a strong possibility that that officer — be that as it may, there was evidence that indicated that he did that — would not be convicted. But clearly that officer had some racist tendencies. He had to to say that a black person did it. Now how would you handle that? You try the case, you lose the case, and the officer gets his job back and he’s on the street? Or you do what was done. You told him, “OK, we’re not going to lock you up. We want you to resign. We want your pension and we don’t want you to go to arbitration to try to get your job back.” And that was done. What does that do? It eliminates a racist officer from being on the force. And isn’t that public safety? And isn’t that the goal?

I’m not saying, nor am I suggesting, that an officer needs to get away with something. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there are police officers that are very good, and there are police officers that are very bad. We need to weed out the bad ones so that the good ones can elevate and the public trust can be elevated. And we can do that with a [police] commissioner like [Richard] Ross, who is a very good commissioner and is trying to do his best in that regard. … That’s why using that tool to negotiate as opposed to a tool to just prosecute may be in the best interests in the long run. So we have to look at that.

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