Local activist Jourdyn Jeaux Parks wasn’t sure what to expect out of her Friday morning meeting with Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales and Assistant District Attorney Daryl Harris, recently named the County’s Civil Rights Division lead prosecutor.
“I walked in with doubt, I walked in with a little bit of fear, I walked in with a bunch of questions, and I can say that I walked out with a little bit of faith … with a little bit of hope,” Parks told the San Antonio Report after their meeting.
Parks co-founded Reliable Revolutionaries last summer as part of the swelling Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd. A small group of its leaders met with Gonzales, Harris, and other division representatives Friday.
Reliable Revolutionaries had called for the division to include more community leaders, but the district attorney’s office aims to establish one that includes two prosecutors, one investigator, and one advocate. Once formed, the division will review and investigate officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement.
“Daryl is a veteran prosecutor who volunteered for this challenging job,” Gonzales said in an email. “We understand the emotions associated with these cases. As we explained to the group we visited with today, our job is to consider all available facts and laws. While I know some would like an independent investigation and even an independent prosecutor, without the Legislature establishing a process to do that we have to work with what we have. I hope that the community will get to know Daryl and see that he is a dedicated civil servant who is committed to justice for everyone in Bexar County.”
The division is slated to be finalized within the next 30 days.
The meeting was productive, but Parks said it got heated at times.
“I kind of came in with guns blazing with my initial question: I wanted to know how this was going to be different” from previous, “toothless” divisions and commissions, she said.
This division will have the ability to investigate possible civil rights violations and incidents of police brutality quickly and review whether the district attorney pursues charges against officers, “which gives it quite a bit of teeth,” Parks said.
“A prosecutor and the investigator will respond to the scene of an officer-involved shooting to monitor the scene,” according to the Civil Rights Division’s webpage. “Law enforcement will still be required to conduct an investigation and file their case with our office for review.”
The division will also work to disseminate timely information via publicly available memos about decisions not to prosecute officers to community leaders, rather than letting these leaders find out through the media, she said. “These letters will kind of give us more insight … better than a headline.”
She also noted that the division will improve outreach to the families of shooting victims.
The district attorney’s office listened, but it’s unclear if they have taken her call for action and reform to heart, Parks said.
“I am no longer accepting speeches and conversations and smiles and handshakes as commitment anymore,” she said. “Racism has been declared a public health crisis here in San Antonio, and I don’t think anything has come of it. … I look forward to the actions that they put behind the words they spoke today.”