A Statement from Ulster County District Attorney Dave Clegg

Posted June 5, 2020

Prosecutors have the privilege of working closely with police officers, honorable men and women, fathers and mothers, who put their lives on the line to protect the public. Yet, there is a very small percentage of officers who are rogue actors, who stain all of law enforcement, undermine the principle of equal justice, and at times wrongfully deprive others of liberty and even life itself. Shamefully, far too many of the individuals wrongly harmed or killed have been persons of color. These despicable acts erode the critical bonds of community trust. In that vein, we denounce the murder of George Floyd as an affront to law-abiding police, people of color, and justice everywhere. This atrocity never should have happened. The murder of George Floyd will be appropriately and zealously prosecuted. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. But condolences are not enough.

As prosecutors when we see an injustice, we have an obligation to speak out and act to redress the wrong. We are charged with upholding the law and protecting the safety of all members of our community while striving to achieve equal justice. In this moment, when the scourge of racism is plain for all to see, we pledge to rededicate our efforts to address inequalities in our system of justice.

Of course, prosecutors have a duty to respond to incidents of alleged police violence promptly, transparently, and fairly. But there have been times in the past when prosecutors may have failed in that duty, and even when investigations determine the allegations made against the police are unfounded, the public may still perceive that the prosecutors failed in that duty. Effective and fair law enforcement requires community trust, and support. I advocate for independent oversight to ensure prosecutorial decisions are well founded, and effective civilian review of policing. I have created an independent and empowered conviction integrity process that addresses past misconduct and ensures that past injustices do not go unaddressed.

Working collaboratively, we all can be agents of change to prevent additional tragedies, and improve upon our justice system so that it more closely achieves equal justice for all.