Jim Flory, a former Douglas County District Attorney, recently submitted an open letter to the Lawrence Journal-World in which he was critical of my work in this office. Had Mr. Flory ever taken it upon himself to contact me directly, I would certainly have been happy to discuss some of these concerns with him, just as I do with many other members of the community on a daily basis. Though Mr. Flory has not served in this office since 1991, the address has not changed and I am here every day. While the address of the District Attorney’s Office has not changed, much is different from the 1980s, when Mr. Flory served the majority of his term here.
The social justice movement has initiated an unprecedented – and much needed – public dialogue about issues such as racial disparities in the criminal justice system, police reform, mass incarceration, rehabilitation, and alternative programming. Elected prosecutors are duly charged with upholding public safety while meeting the needs of their communities. This is a difficult balance, and oftentimes calls for change. As we have seen in this community, change is hard. What worked in the 1980s and 1990s is often the opposite of what is called for now. Some are so rooted in their ways that they fear even incremental change and become defensive and territorial at any suggestion that we should revisit how certain issues and matters are handled.
With the advent of social media, we see immediate reaction to events and issues of interest. It is encouraging to see the public engaged in the dialogue when it comes to the things that motivate them to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, there is no vetting of this information. It is more important to be the first to break the news than it is to be accurate. We are seeing traditional journalism devolve to this same practice.
I knew that being District Attorney would be challenging, and I accept that challenge every day. Since my first day in office on January 11, 2021, I have held true to the initiatives, policies and programming this community elected me to install. We aggressively prosecute violent offenders. We do not shy away from trying difficult cases. We serve a great number of non-violent individuals through our alternatives to incarceration, including Behavioral Health Court and Drug Court. We have expanded access to adult criminal diversions. We have formed a University Sexual Assault Task Force comprised of students from each of the three universities in Douglas County. We have elevated transparency through our Annual Reports and our social media.
Perhaps the cornerstone of my administration is establishment of our Special Victims Unit. We give survivors of sexual assault a voice. By their very nature, these are among the most difficult cases to prosecute. We are constantly battling archaic societal misconceptions such as, “she was asking for it,” “what did she think was going to happen,” and the like. Though we at times fall short, our desire to seek justice for survivors of sexual assault never waivers.
The public is certainly entitled to their opinions on my initiatives, policies, and leadership. In the United States of America, our courts are open to the public. While the public is welcome to form their opinions based upon third-hand information, they are also welcome to witness the criminal justice system firsthand and to engage in the process through the many forms of community outreach available.
Public Information Officer
Douglas County District Attorney's Office