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41 Action News wants to help you make an informed decision during the 2020 Primary Election on August 4. We sent surveys to the two candidates running for Wyandotte County District Attorney. Here's where they stand on the issues.
Question: How important is it for the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office to undergo mandatory implicit bias training?
Question: How Important will it be to maintain the Conviction Integrity Unit?
Question: Some U.S. cities are now discussing the process of defunding the police. The result would mean reallocating some funding to other forms of public safety and community support, including social services, housing, education and health care. Do you support defunding the police?
“I selected "prefer not to answer" because the term "defund the police" is a terrible description of what folks are really asking for. What I believe we should be focused on during every budget cycle is "are the taxpayer dollars allocated to specific departments doing what "we the people" have intended for it to do?" If it is not, we have a responsibility to look at how to best allocate those resources. The use of excessive police force and the effectiveness of handling difficult situations (mental health issues) has come under scrutiny in the last few months. We should as a nation look at how we are allocating dollars and not issue a blank check to departments just because it is the way things have always been done. These times require innovation and creative thinking as well as a means to measure effectiveness. There has been an increasing demand for law enforcement to handle many jobs they are not equipped to handle. We need to take a hard look at who is equipped to handle these situations (mental health professionals, social workers, etc.) and reallocate those funds to the correct departments.”
“I believe we should start allocating resources to social services, mental health, and other community based programs that provide important services to our community. I believe those agencies can form a partnership with the DA's office, law enforcement, local businesses, educators and other stakeholders to create a more holistic crime reduction strategy. That being said, I don't believe that Wyandotte County is in a position at the current time to reallocate funding away from our police department, which is presently understaffed. Every community is different and what makes sense in one community isn't necessarily a solution for every community.”
Question: The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would implement the following ways to reform policing and hold police officers accountable. Mark the mandates you support. Any mandate left unmarked will indicate you do not support it unless you check "Prefer not to answer."
|Kristiane Bryant||Mark Dupree|
|Ban racial & religious profiling||✅||✅|
|Ban no-knock warrants||✅|
|Mandate data collection on police encounters||✅|
|Require body cameras||✅||✅|
|Limit military equipment used by police departments||✅||✅|
|Streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force||✅||✅|
|Establish independent prosecutors for police investigations||✅|
|Prefer not to answer|
“With regard to "no-knock" warrants, I don't believe they should be banned as there are times they are necessary, but I do think it is time to limit their use to only extreme circumstances to be determined by a judge. With regard to mandated data collection, we need to continuing to mandate data collection on any law enforcement encounters that involve a use of force, regardless of severity, and ensure that any complaints or injuries are reviewed. Once we ensure that process is working properly, then we can take a look at other data that may need to be collected. With regard to military equipment, it depends on the need. We certainly don't want our neighborhoods militarized, that just dismantles trust between the community and law enforcement, however there are limited tools that have proven to be necessary in unique circumstances. I think it should be discouraged, but not totally eliminated as an option.”
Note: Mark Dupree did not provide additional comment on the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
Question: What role, if any, do you believe district attorneys should play in improving the relationship between police and the communities they serve?
“The Wyandotte County D.A.'s office just finished implicit bias training and it should be mandated for all law enforcement officials and officers. This will increase cultural competency and continue to build trust throughout the community. Community trust is important for many reasons within the D.A.'s office and local law enforcement agencies. The community reports crime, the community becomes witnesses to the crime, and the community can work to prevent crime as well. We all play a major part in building community trust, we are all the criminal justice system. Everyone who works with people should develop a baseline understanding of different cultures as they are serving everyone- not just people who look like them or come from the same zip code. The D.A.'s office can take the lead in providing this training.”
“District Attorneys play an important role in improving the relationship between police and the community they serve. The District Attorney's Office is a law enforcement partner just as they are a partner with educators, local businesses and service providers. Although partners may not always agree, it is important that respectful relationships are maintained to improve community relationships and ultimately community safety.”
Question: Mayor David Alvey recently announced a task force on community and police relations. What role, if any, do you believe the DA's Office should have on or involving the task force?
“I believe the DA's Office should be involved in the task force. They have a direct role in helping to improve community relations with law enforcement, the DA's office and local government. The DA's Office should serve in a neutral capacity and be in a position to receive information from all sides of an issue in an unbiased manner.”
“As the Chief Law Enforcement Official for Wyandotte County, Kansas the Wyandotte District Attorney's office should have had a seat at the table for the community and police relations task force. As the relationship between law enforcement has a direct impact on the cases the D.A.'s office handles in the courtroom. If the community does not trust the police it will have a direct impact on the case and ultimately our ability to pursue justice.”
Question: Advocates for criminal justice reform say ending the bail system could help curb mass incarceration. Do you believe the cash bail system should be eliminated?
“Cash bail needs to be completely revamped. We need to look at public safety and a defendant's likelihood to return back to court. Cash bail disproportionately affects poor people. The unfair effects are seen in every area - despite the crime. Also, we spend more money keeping people locked up for high bonds which are low-level drug possessions and it becomes fiscally irresponsible. For example, if two people have the same criminal history, are charged with the same crime, and one has financial means and the other does not the one with financial means will be released while the poor person will stay in custody. It doesn't make our community safer and doesn't equate to justice for all. This leads to a broader discussion on whether people should be arrested for low-level drug possession. However, this will require the Court's cooperation as well, because ultimately it is the Judge who sets the bail, the D.A.'s office only gives recommendations.”
Question: What do you believe is the most important issue of this election?
“Fighting Forward to maintain the progress we have made as a county. Specifically, trust, integrity, transparency, and getting rid of corruption.”
“The most important issue of the election is safety. Residents of our community should be safe from violence as they do day to day activities and they should also be safe from inconsistent practices in the criminal justice system that result in unfair and unjust outcomes for both charge individuals and crime victims in Wyandotte County.”
Question: What commitment can you make to Wyandotte County voters?
“I am committed to the diligent prosecution of violent offenders and to ensuring that everyone who comes into contact with the criminal justice system in Wyandotte County is treated fairly, consistently and respectfully.”
“The District Attorney's office will never again be a mystery for citizens. I will continue to be transparent, openly discuss difficult situations (as the law allows), and listen to your voice as we move forward. Lastly, our office will fight for justice in a fair and just manner for the entire community regardless of their race, title, zip code, or last name. Every victim's voice will be heard.”