Harris has ambitious agenda as attorney general

December 29, 2010 7:14:40 PM PST
The newly-elected state attorney general has an ambitious agenda.

Kamala Harris, San Francisco's current district attorney, sat down Wednesday to talk about her future goals in an exclusive interview with ABC7's Vic Lee.

Harris spent seven years as district attorney. She inherited an office which was demoralized, an office which had a bitter and often adversarial relationship with the police department. Today, she says she is proud of how she's changed that office.

The future attorney general says she is looking forward to making a statewide impact on the successes she has had as district attorney. One big priority is mortgage fraud.

"We brought over $1 million to San Francisco a couple of years ago to create a stand-alone mortgage fraud unit, building on the work we had been doing which was work of outreach, often to immigrant communities," Harris said.

Since Harris became district attorney in 2004, felony conviction rates rose dramatically boosted by a 40 percent jump in gang convictions and a 30 percent increase in convictions for drug sales. But, she is also proud of her crime prevention programs which she hopes to replicate. "Back on Track" is one such program.

"The United States Department of Justice designated "Back on Track" as a model of innovation for law enforcement in the United States. It's been replicated around the country," Harris said.

Back on Track helps get jobs and schooling for those arrested for the first time for selling small quantities of drugs.

"Over the course of the last five years, for that population, we've reduced their re-offense rate from 54 percent to less than 10 percent," Harris said.

There is one controversy she has been unable to avoid, her opposition to the death penalty. However, she says that as attorney general, she will follow the law just like many of her predecessors, as did Jerry Brown.

"My position on the death penalty is the same as four of the last nine attorneys general of California including the current one. So, the work of that office will not change as it relates to death penalty cases," she said.

Harris voted against the ballot measure to legalize marijuana although she supports medical marijuana, but only if the dispensaries are regulated.

"I believe the attorney general can play a role and should play a role in convening law enforcement and others who are involved with this issue to agree on standards," she says. "We want to ensure that we can detect and weed out abuses. And, in the case of medical marijuana, it means a number of things including insuring that there's not bad product out there that's being sold to sick people."

When asked who she wants to replace her as district attorney, Harris simply smiled and said she plans to tell Mayor Newsom what qualities he should look for before he appoints someone. That someone remains a mystery.


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