By Joe Dworetzky, Bay City News Foundation
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Decrying the influence and political power of law enforcement unions around the state, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and other prosecutors announced the founding of the “Prosecutors Alliance of California,” an group they described as “a “first in the nation initiative” to advocate for police reform.

Boudin was joined by District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar of San Joaquin County and George Gascon, former San Francisco district attorney and current candidate in the November election for the same post in Los Angeles County. Diana Becton, Contra Costa County’s district attorney and the fourth founding member of the group, did not attend.

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The new organization intends to actively participate in the political and legislative process as an advocate for police reform as well as public safety.

“For too long, law enforcement organizations in our state have sold us a false bill of goods that those concepts cannot co-exist,” said Cristine Soto DeBerry, founder and executive director of the new organization.

“Traditional law enforcement unions” have a “vested interest” in current policies because “overcriminalization and mass incarceration” lead to more police and corrections officers and “ultimately to more money for the unions that represent them,” Boudin said.

He argued that a strong voice is needed at the table to advocate for a reform agenda.

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“We can no longer allow these groups to distort” the perception of what is in the best interests of the public’s safety, Boudin said.

The prosecutors view PCA as an “alternative” to existing law enforcement groups around the state.

While current members only include the founders, others are welcome and encouraged to join. Membership will also be available for line prosecutors. The new organization intends to fund itself by soliciting donations from the public.

One of the first items on PCA’s agenda is to prevent California district attorneys from accepting contributions from police organizations, a practice, DeBerry said, that has an “inherent conflict of interest” when prosecutors are asked to determine if there is criminal conduct by a member of the contributing union.

The founding members of PCA, DeBerry said, signed a pledge earlier this year not to accept contributions from police unions.

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