Eric Gonzalez was inaugurated as the 33rd District Attorney of Brooklyn during a rousing ceremony at the Weylin in Williamsburg on Sunday, during which he outlined his vision of keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening communities’ trust in the criminal justice system by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all.
The event was attended by elected officials, judges, clergy members and community leaders.
Mayor Bill de Blasio opened the ceremony and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Public Advocate Tish James and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, among others, delivered remarks.
The Oath of Office was conducted by New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and salsa legend Willie Colon provided musical entertainment.
“I am so thrilled and honored to be standing here today. Growing up, my dream was to serve as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn DA’s office. That’s it. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be sworn in as the District Attorney. I am humbled and honored beyond my ability to express,” said Gonzalez in his address, thanking all present, including his family, for his success.
“I also want to acknowledge, and to remember, one towering figure who isn’t with us today. And that is my friend and mentor, the late Great Ken Thompson [his deceased predecessor],” Gonzalez added. “We all imagined that today would be Ken’s day, his second inauguration, and that we would be looking back on his accomplishments, and looking forward to the future. So, this is a bittersweet moment for me, and for many of us.
“I know that Ken would be so proud of where the Office stands today, of how the staff held together to carry on his legacy of reform,” he continued. “We stand tall today on Ken’s shoulders, and we look forward to a bright future because of the groundwork he laid in the far too short time he held the office of Brooklyn District Attorney.”
Gonzalez said he was proud to work with Thompson on the reforms for which the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office “continues to be known around the country.”
He said the Conviction Review Unit, with 24 wrongful convictions vacated thus far, is the national model.
He also said the Begin Again program, in which nearly 150,000 warrants were vacated in a single day in Brooklyn, has contributed significantly to reducing the enormous backlog of warrants that have prevented thousands of New Yorkers from moving forward with their lives.
Gonzalez said the Young Adult Court is one of the most innovative in the country, helping young people get the services they need to avoid further criminal justice involvement.
“We have pursued all these reforms while keeping Brooklyn safe,” he said. “We closed out 2017 as the safest year in my lifetime, and very possibly in yours: shootings and homicides hit record lows. Assaults, robberies, larcenies were all down.”
But even with those accomplishments, the DA said there is more work to be done, announcing the Brooklyn DA’s Justice 2020 Initiative, aimed at “keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening communities’ trust in our criminal justice system by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all.”
He said he intends to make significant progress toward this vision by the end of 2020 by promoting a justice system predicated on fairness, equity, compassion and fiscal responsibility; doubling down on “our obligation, as prosecutors, to do justice, not just seek convictions;” working “toward outcomes that restore and heal victims and communities, and we will work to reduce racial disparities in our system;” and continuing to “identify and focus on those who do the most harm.”
“In Brooklyn, what we won’t do, however, is be passive in the face of cruel and misguided policies handed down from Washington, D.C., especially on immigration,” Gonzalez affirmed.
“Our recently-formed Immigration Unit is being adopted by prosecutors across the country and rightly so — it helps our friends and neighbors in immigrant communities avoid unjust deportation and sends a message to the rest of the country that when it comes to our immigrant communities, doing what’s right and fair doesn’t conflict with our commitment to public safety,” he added. “Rather, it enhances it; it makes us safer.”