Pamela Price: The Path to the District Attorney’s Office is No Crystal Stair, Part I

By Tanya Dennis

When civil rights attorney Pamela Price decided to run for Alameda County District Attorney, her life was already the personification of poet Langston Hughes’ famous poem “Mother to Son” that notes that “Life Ain’t No Crystal Stair.”

Price comes from the type of community she ran for office to serve. She was once on the other side of the law and is an example of how people can change when given the opportunity.

Raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Price states she was traumatized, then radicalized with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. at age 11.  Raised in group homes and foster care homes, Price describes her childhood as traumatic.

“Raised in group homes and foster care, at age 13 I was in a juvenile justice facility.  I walked away from foster care at age 16 to my own accountability, living all over the place,” she recalled.  “I rented a truck, went back to my three foster homes, collected the little I possessed, and checked into a ‘fleabag’ hotel that I could pay for by the week. Despite the adversity, I not only survived, I thrived. “

Price attributes her ability to thrive to foster moms who “kept their hands on her,” stressing the importance of education as the only true path to liberation.

Managing to graduate from high school, Price got accepted to Yale College on a full scholarship.  That scholarship, according to Price, was the game changer.  She majored in political science and American studies, and after graduating from Law School, became a civil rights attorney.

In 2017, while working with the Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition on a number of racial issues around police misconduct, they were successful in getting Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson to resign in disgrace and admit to felonies, which open the door for a new D.A..

People asked Price to run for D.A. in Contra Costa County, but she refused because she lived in Alameda County. When she declined, a young man responded, “Alameda is just as bad.” Upon investigation, Price realized he was right, and no one had challenged Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in four years.

In June of 2017, Price began her campaign for D.A. in Alameda County, but she lost in 2018.

Still determines, then ran again in 2022 and won.

Walking into the office on January 3, Price describes an office in total disarray.

According to Price, there were employees with no supervisor, a myriad of unfilled positions despite money set aside, people on payroll making substantial amounts of money who were not working.

And that was just the start, she said. “The computer system was antiquated; no method of communication existed between offices in the nine locations; no human resource for 450 employees and no operational plans or processes in place.”

Standards of accountability were lacking and “absolutely no working oversight.”

The most serious issue she faced, she said, were employees traumatized by fellow members suicides and heart attacks. They were in deep need of mental support.

“The culture in that office was toxic and addressing their trauma was my first priority.  I’m happy to report that 90% of the staff stayed.”

After addressing the health and wellness of her employees, the victim witness advocates were next.  Price noted that “The DA’s office was understaffed across the entire spectrum despite O’Malley having the funds: she didn’t manage this organization at all.”

Knowing that people voted for her to get the DA’s office in order, Price says the last three months restructuring the office has been formidable but cites a 25% improvement.

Despite best intents, her efforts were thwarted after she placed people on leave, and they became disgruntled and started attacking her office.

Taking on the culture of the organization, Price hired 35 people to fill vacancies, created a management structure, and addressed dramatic overpayments to some the people who have since have been placed in their correct positions.

Responsible for nine locations, the systemic failure in communications makes Price’s vision of transforming the DA’s office a formidable task, but one she says she’s up to.

“It will take wisdom, patience, grace, courage, compassion, and a sense of purpose with a real commitment to serve the people of Alameda County. I was put in this season for a reason, and I’ve been preparing all my life for this.”

Next Week: Part 2 – A New Vision of Justice.

The post Pamela Price: The Path to the District Attorney’s Office is No Crystal Stair, Part I first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.

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