Kamala Harris Now Embraces Independent Investigations She Opposed as Attorney General

Kamala Harris Now Embraces Independent Investigations She Opposed as Attorney General

Kamala Harris’ latest flip flop is her new-found support for independent investigations of police shootings.

May 21, 2019
Kamala Harris Now Embraces Independent Investigations She Opposed as Attorney General

Kamala Harris is leaning on her record as a “progressive prosecutor” in the Democratic primary. To better fit the newly developed label, she has had to “evolve” on numerous beliefs, including a former priority initiative: truancy. The most recent “evolution” is her new-found support for independent investigations of police shootings.

As California Attorney General, Harris disappointed advocates by refusing to back legislation that would require independent investigations of police shootings. In a January 2019 CNN Town Hall, Harris denied that she opposed the legislation. The New York Times called that statement “misleading,” while the Washington Postsaid that Harris’s claim that her office did not take stances on legislation was “not accurate.”

The legislation eventually did not clear committee consideration in the legislature. California Department of Justice statistics shows there were 695 police shootings in California during Harris’s tenure as AG. Harris refused the available authority to externally investigate these shootings and left it to local law enforcement agencies to make the decision of whether a shooting was justified.

MELBER: Back with me is U.S. senator and 2020 candidate Kamala Harris. Thanks for waiting for the 30 along with I hope most of the viewers listening to you. Before the lightning round, one more topic you’ve worked a lot on but there’s a big debate on which is what’s the best way to deal with police shootings and alleged police brutality? And you’ve been clear as a prosecutor about wanting to stand up and deal with that. You’ve also taken at times a different view than some. I want to read something you said when there was reform proposals to have independent investigations and you said, quote, “I don’t think it would be good public policy to take the discretion from elected district attorneys where there are abuses, we have designed the system to address them.” As you know in the wake of many of these incidents the view is by some that the independent probes are better to not let the D.A. investigate the cops they work with daily. Did you change your mind about that or what is the best approach?

SEN. HARRIS: I believe the best approach is to have independent investigations. There’s no question.

MELBER: I wonder what moved you to change your mind? Was it some of the cases you saw?

SEN. HARRIS: If you have the time, Ari, I can explain. When I was district attorney in San Francisco I had a case where I refused to seek the death penalty, and there were people who didn’t agree with my decision and wanted to take the case from me. And so I had a very real personal experience where I had to fight to keep my case. And my argument was that I was elected to exercise my discretion and no one is going to take my case from me. It was that personal experience that informed my principle which is that these cases shouldn’t be taken from the person who was elected to exercise their discretion.

MELBER: But you feel on this differently.

SEN. HARRIS: This is an issue about what we need to do when it comes to these shootings, and I think we are all very clear that there has to be an independent investigation conducted from first moments of the incident so that we can be certain and sure there’s been a thorough investigation that is not informed by bias and so that there will be justice all of the people concerned.

MELBER: Copy. I know you have a lot of experience on this.