26 March 2014

Steve Nelson - Candidate for Salt Lake County District Attorney

I've pondered how I'm going to organize all this information, and I've decided to have a post for each person that I meet.  Whenever I get more information about each person, I'll add it to the end of the corresponding post with the date attached.

First Meeting, 25 March 2014

I regret to say that my very first impression of Steve was that his picture looked a little "aristocratic".  When I went to the meeting, I thought I'd be hearing from someone that had a high opinion of himself, etc.

Boy, was I surprised.  Within a few seconds, I realized that I had just met a fervent, well-spoken, thoughtful, hard-working servant of the people.  He is currently employed by the SLC District Attorney's Office as the Unit Chief of Violent Felonies, having worked as a prosecutor overall for 11 years.  He is directly involved in a number of drug-endangered children initiatives and is endorsed by the Federated Brotherhood of Police Officers as well as the SLC Police Association.  You can read more about his background in a blurb on hit Vote for Steve page.

It was readily apparent that there were several police officers and retired police officers at the meeting.  There was a lot of anti-Sim Gill sentiment in the room, probably driven by these individuals.  One police officer who serves in Davis County mentioned that some of the decisions that Mr. Gill made have taken the Davis County police force to a point where they will not cooperate with Salt Lake County when SL County calls for assistance on SWAT.  Another said that what many officers are thinking when they are pointing a gun at someone is not "how can I protect myself and this individual" but instead "what's the district attorney going to do to me if I pull the trigger?" (Such a sentiment may not be completely without value since accountability is extremely important, but this individual was saying that he thought this was out of balance.)  Mr. Nelson stated that there is very little trust and a great deal of bureaucratic distance between Mr. Gill and the rest of his office, citing specifically that Mr. Gill has a level of management between himself and his prosecutors.  Mr. Nelson expressed that this caused Mr. Gill to make decisions without anyone in the room who is actually doing the work.  Perhaps due to this bureaucratic distance, Mr. Nelson stated that several cases were dismissed by Mr. Gill where Mr. Nelson has "no idea" what process Mr. Gill followed to do so.

There was a great deal of concern with regards to how Mr. Gill has used the media during his term.  In the room, the voiced consensus was that his motivations may be to use this position as a stepping stone to greater political positions instead of giving this position its due.  A specific instance was cited where Mr. Gill held a press conference with a stack of paper beside him at the podium to symbolize the number of cases they were processing.  Mr. Nelson expressed that this showed disrespect for settling cases in the court.

Aside from the long discussion about Mr. Gill's approach to the office, his cadence, etc., Mr. Nelson cited issues with Mr. Gill's policies as well.  Mr. Nelson believes that the district attorney is currently not doing enough to stop domestic violence.  At the beginning of Mr. Gill's term, he dissolved the department (or group) that was focused on domestic violence.  Mr. Nelson believes that this should be reversed and a new focus on the matter reinstated.

Another was drug-endangered children.  Mr. Nelson obviously feels strongly about drug-endangered children, e.g. children who are affected by their parents use of meth, etc.  When asked a question about cyberbullying as an indirect crime that needs prosecuting, Mr. Nelson gracefully answered the individuals question and then used it as an opportunity to explain his intentions to add a new focus to the office on behalf of these children.  He stated that few individuals are well-informed with regards to the consequences of, for example, what happens when the former tenant in an apartment cooked meth there and the new tenants have a couple of kids.  He affiliates with the National Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children and feels very strongly about raising awareness of the issue.

Mr. Nelson is a promoter of victim's rights.  An individual asked him about his views on Paul Cassell, he stated that he agreed with Paul on the need for victims to be informed when their perpetrator is released from jail, has court dates, etc.

On those lines generally, Mr. Nelson feels that the barriers currently in place in the District Attorney Office's bureaucracy need to be broken down.  He attests to his current pattern of giving his phone number to all victims, keeping as much contact with them as possible, and maintaining an open door policy to help increase trust.

Mr. Nelson cited Mr. Gill's "Early Case Resolution" process, which Mr. Nelson believes is leading to a revolving door.  Interestingly, this was brought up when Jake Petersen, a candidate for County Sheriff, brought up the amount of time it takes to cite an individual for a DUI.  The process takes about 3 hours, and Jake said that he wanted to see that go down.  Mr. Nelson brought up that while efficiency is admirable, we cannot elevate it past the need that many of these perpetrators has for treatment.  He stated that the Early Case Resolution process is moving cases so quickly through the system that they are being adjudicated without consideration for treatment of the individual committing the crime.  In his opinion, this creates a revolving door, increasing recidivism.

Overall, it was a very informative 45 minutes that we had with him.  I was very happy that I went.  I need to see what I can do to find the other side of the story, but I will say that Steve Nelson appears to be of excellent quality for the position and would be happy to see him serving there.