OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The race for the Alameda County District Attorney job could prove to be competitive, as incumbent D.A. Nancy O'Malley faces challenger Pamela Price, a civil rights attorney.
The two candidates faced off for the first time Wednesday evening at a town hall forum held at Merritt College in Oakland. About one hundred students and members of the public showed up to hear the candidates answer questions about their views on a wide range of issues regarding criminal justice.
"We have to look at new strategies and we need a change in the office and in the partnerships that we have," said Price, adding that if elected, she would focus on issues of racial inequality in charges and sentencing, as well as establishing neighborhood courts and county-wide standards for all law enforcement agencies.
O'Malley said during her seven years in office she's created a track record of implementing new strategies and programs.
"One saying that I live by is 'nothing stops a bullet faster than a job.' And that really guides us into what programs we create," said O'Malley.
The two attorneys took questions, both agreeing the cash bail system should be reformed. On jail sentences for low level crimes, both also favor finding alternate programs.
O'Malley has served in the Alameda County D.A.'s office since 1984. She says she's proud of programs she's started to help young offenders get jobs and wipe their records clean.
Price is a civil rights attorney who said she would establish neighborhood courts and county wide standards for all law enforcement agencies. She blasted O'Malley for her handling of Price's onetime client Jasmine Abuslin, the teen at the center of the Oakland police sex scandal.
"The court says that there was obstruction of justice that there was cover up going on for 9 months amd yet pur District Attorney has chosen not to investigate or charge any of the commanders," said Price.
O'Malley says she is investigating police misconduct and challenging state laws that restrict district attorneys' access to police personnel records.
"My track record has been creating the future since I entered the office and changing the paradigm of the DA's office and changing the paradigm of criminal justice and I'll continue doing that," O'Malley said.
"I've spent my career 30 years representing victims of official misconduct of police misconduct. Representing people who felt like they had no voice," said Price.
For the public and Merritt College students it was a first step toward deciding who will get their vote in June.
"It helps me decipher which candidate is going to put more resources back into the community to stop violence," said Isaiah Coleman of Oakland, who came with a group of other youth.
The event was sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Starbucks and Noah Bagels.
The NOBLE San Francisco chapter president, Sekou Millington, who is also with the Oakland Police Department, says they felt it was important to hold this community event.
"Young people need to be engaged and need to understand the candidates they're voting for and we thought it best to host it here where they have a criminal justice program," said Millington.
The district attorney election is set for June 2018.