By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
SAN BERNARDINO >> National Crime Victims’ Rights Week opened Monday with a somber ceremony hosted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.
The ceremony symbolizes the focus that the criminal justice system should have 52 weeks a year, said District Attorney Michael A. Ramos.
And it’s a promise to anyone affected by crime, he said.
“Stay strong,” Ramos said. “When you have that anxiety-filled moment when you feel like you can’t breathe, think of us — think of today. We will never stop seeking justice for you.”
Former San Bernardino police officers Gabe Garcia and his father, Ron Garcia, both attended the ceremony and shook hands with Ramos.
On Aug. 22, 2014, Gabe Garcia and his trainee, Officer Marcus Pesquera, came upon a group of people gathered around a car. Both officers stepped from their patrol car to see what the group was doing when one of the men opened fire, felling Garcia.
Pesquera returned fire and killed the gunman, Alex Alvarado, 38. Pesquera received the Medal of Valor from the Police Department and Gov. Jerry Brown for his actions.
Crime victim Kermit Alexander, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s and 1970s, was also at the ceremony.In 1984, Los Angeles gang members went into a house two doors down from the one they were looking for. They murdered Alexander’s mother, sister and two nephews.
The experience propelled the family into fighting for victims’ rights, said Tami Alexander, who accepted an award from Ramos alongside her husband.
“We do this for all victims,” she said. “This is the one area — victims’ rights — that crosses color barriers, age, Democrats and Republicans.”
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Submitted: 03/15/2017 - 6:17am
In five weeks as attorney general, Jeff Sessions has taken fire for his testimony about past meetings with Russia’s ambassador and been criticized for the abrupt removal of dozens of politically appointed U.S. attorneys around the country.
But Sessions is getting a much warmer welcome among the nation’s law enforcement community, which has largely embraced his plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases, crack down on immigration offenses and ease up on suing local police departments accused of violating minorities’ civil rights.
Sessions will further explain his plans to realign the Justice Department’s priorities on Wednesday, when he addresses a gathering of federal, state and local law enforcement officers in Richmond, Virginia. He can expect an enthusiastic response.
“Happily for us, on vast majority of issues, we’re on the same page,” said James Pasco, a senior adviser at the Fraternal Order of Police.
The Justice Department wouldn’t comment on what Sessions will say in Richmond. But a spokesman said his remarks will expand on a number of his recent actions, including a memo ordering a crackdown on violent crime and a speech that warned that a recent uptick in crime was “the beginning of a trend” that requires a “return to the ideas” that cut lawbreaking to historic lows since the 1990s.
In that Feb. 28 speech to state attorneys general, Sessions blamed Mexican drug cartels for a record spike in heroin overdoses and suggested that he would reverse Obama administration policies that sought to reduce the prosecutions of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders on charges that carried mandatory minimum prison sentences.
Sessions said in the speech that from 2010 to 2015, the number of gun and drug prosecutions had dropped. “This trend will end,” he said.
“Happily for us, on vast majority of issues, we’re on the same page.”
Sessions, a Republican former U.S. senator and federal prosecutor from Alabama, also signaled a new approach toward police departments accused of discriminatory policing. He said that rather than “spending scarce federal resources to sue them in court,” federal money would be better used going after criminals.
Michael Ramos, president of the National District Attorneys Association, said it was refreshing to hear Sessions promise to “get back to tough-on-crime.”
The Obama administration, Ramos said, went too far in seeking ways to reduce mandatory minimum sentences and get people out of prison. That lenience, he said, could be driving crime rates.
Lawrence Leiser, vice president for policy at the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, said his organization opposed easing up on mandatory minimum sentencing and welcomed a return to earlier approaches.
He said he viewed Sessions’ take on law enforcement as “inspiring.”
A tough-on-crime and victims’ rights prosecutor, Ramos’ profile has risen in recent years as he’s been unafraid to challenge public figures through social media and as this county saw a number of widely publicized incidents, none more so than the Dec. 2, 2015 terrorist attack.