Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Response from Steve Harmon, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Candidate

1. What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position? What experience/attributes do you have that qualify you for this position?

The key role of the Circuit Attorney is leadership for the employees of that office, ensuring justice is served to all in the City of St. Louis. 

My experience as a Law Enforcement Officer and Commander, as well as a Prosecuting Attorney qualifies me for the position more than any other candidate in this race. I am the only candidate that has the experience in dealing with crime, investigating crime and solving crime. I am the only candidate that has supervisory and managerial experience.

2. Why do you think you are the best person for this position? What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

My experience as a Law Enforcement Officer and Commander, as well as a Prosecuting Attorney qualifies me for the position more than any other candidate in this race. I am the only candidate that has the experience in dealing with crime, investigating crime and solving crime. I am the only candidate that has supervisory and managerial experience, which includes managing a budget, staffing, performance appraisals, promotion, hiring, discipline, training, and recruiting.

As a Homicide Detective, I personally investigated the most serious offenses committed, arrested the offenders and brought them to justice. I personally knocked on doors at 3 am to inform parents and relatives of murder victims that their loved one had been killed. I have dealt firsthand with the trauma that a homicide can bring to a grieving family.

As prosecutor, I was assigned to the “Mental Health Court”, where I oversaw the offender docket and handled the diversion programs in place to ensure the persons charged with offenses were not prosecuted as criminals, but were provided treatment for their unique circumstances and returned to society after completing their programs. 

Additionally, I am the only candidate that is actively involved in the community. I work extensively with the Better Family Life Organization for over ten years, and for the past five years I have managed the Amnesty Program.

I am also a board member for the 100 Black Men, a mentoring organization. Two years ago I personally started a mentoring program in the Juvenile Detention Center for the incarcerated youth in that facility.

I am a member of the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I have advanced post graduate degrees in Management and Human Resources in addition to a degree in Criminal Justice and a law degree. All of which are directly related to managing a staff in the Office of the Circuit Attorney.

Moreover, I serve on the Missouri Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Committee, where I review cases of Attorney misconduct and make recommendations to the court for disciplinary action. I have been a member of this committee for over two years and know what being an honest and ethical attorney is versus what an unethical attorney and dishonest attorney is.

3. What do you feel are the most pressing issues currently facing this office and what plans do you have to address these issues? (please be specific)
  • Crime – The reduction of crime is the most important issue facing this office and the City of St. Louis. I have several initiatives I plan to implement to address this issue.
    • Community Oriented Prosecution
    • Prosecutors at Crime Scenes
    • Arrest & Release Program
  • Integrity – This office has been plagued by corruption, Prosecutorial Misconduct, and lack of public trust. The office must be the symbol of justice, along with the courts, to ensure that the public is safe and justice is served and received by all.
    • Prosecutions will occur equally and fairly without regard to the offender, victim, or witnesses’ background, ethnicity, gender, occupation, or any other characteristic.
    • Staff will be held to the highest ethical standards.
    • Staff who bring discredit to the office will be immediate removed.

4. Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.

I am very active in the community and I currently work with several community-based organizations to help my office address its priorities, as well as my connections with law enforcement.

5. Do you support a special prosecutor request in officer-involved shootings?

I support the use of a special prosecutor in “officer-involved shootings” on a case-by-case basis.

6. Who are your 3 largest campaign contributors? Do you have a policy on accepting lobbyist gifts? Are there donors from whom you will not accept campaign contributions?
  1. Leapers Corp.
  2. C. Smith
  3. J. Dowd

7. Since the shooting death of Michael Brown, the roles of prosecutors in our criminal justice system have become a topic of national discussion. If elected, how will you work to increase trust between our criminal justice system and the community, in particular low income communities of color? 

In addition to addressing the issues discussed above in the Circuit Attorney’s Office, I will do the following:
  • Require that police receive proper training in all areas of policing to ensure that they perform their duties fairly, lawfully, respectfully, and credibly in court testimony.
  • Assist the police in training officers in current legal practices, laws, and policies to ensure that the police treat all citizens in a just manner.
  • Advocate for Police Body Cameras, which will help hold police accountable, while protecting the police from unwarranted complaints and criticism.

8. The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails – a 500% increase over the past thirty years. St. Louis is not immune to this trend. In particular, people who commit crimes as a result of drug seeking behavior or have mental illness comprise roughly a third of the people in our jails at any given time. If elected, what steps will you take to decrease incarceration rates in St. Louis, especially for people with substance abuse and mental health issues?

As a former Prosecutor for the Mental Health Court in St. Louis County, and a Police Officer for over 20 years, I understand the mental health issues affecting many citizens in our community and the effect that it has on the criminal justice system. I will work to have a Mental Health Court in St. Louis that will ensure those who suffer from mental health issues are not treated unfairly and put into the criminal justice system.

9. Recently, a former aide of Richard Nixon admitted that the War on Drugs was fabricated to target low-income communities of color and people who were a part of the liberal left. We now have multiple Presidential candidates calling for an end to the war on drugs. As Circuit Attorney, what role will you play in ending the war on drugs?

As Circuit Attorney I will prosecute crimes that are brought before my office by law enforcement, while balancing the expenditure of resources with the severity of the offense, and ensuring that all people are treated fairly and equally.

10. Some Circuit Attorneys are criticized for only prosecuting cases they know can be won in order to maintain a high conviction rate. As Circuit Attorney, how will you make decisions on what cases to prosecute?

The theme of my campaign – Harmon 2016 is, “Bringing Justice to the People”. As Circuit Attorney, I will only be concerned with justice, even if that means that I only convict one person, as long as it was the right person for the right offense. I will not be concerned with having a “high conviction rate”.

Considerations for determining which cases to prosecute will include, but not limited to, type of offense, evidence, victim cooperation, and credibility of police.

11. As Circuit Attorney, how will you ensure that people who have committed crimes are able to have the opportunity to fully participate in society after they have done their time?

Advocate for programs for “ex-convicts” to participate in after their release from incarceration that will help them “re-enter” society and become productive citizens. Advocate for services such as job skill training, education, mentoring, substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence counseling.

12. What is your position on expungement, restorative justice, and diversion programs?

I am a proponent of expungement for non-violent offenders, restorative justice, and diversion programs for non-violent offenders.

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