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Ventura County | Q & A / VENTURA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
: Greg Totten

2 Prosecutors Outline Visions for Office

January 06, 2002

Question: Your critics say that you're a bland bureaucrat with little prosecutorial experience. Are they right and do these managerial qualities fit into the role of an aggressive district attorney?

Totten: I don't know which critics you're talking about, because people who know me, the people whose respect and trust and support I've earned, view me as a proven leader. Somebody with extensive trial experience and a person who not only possesses the trial experience but also has served in a leadership capacity for many years. I'm the No. 2 person in the office and oversee a $47-million budget and 600 employees. But, beyond that, I've proven myself time and again in court.

Q: What percentage of the lawyers and employees overall are racial or ethnic minorities in your office? What steps would you take to make the district attorney's office reflective of the entire community, including the 33% of residents who are Latino?

Totten: I don't have the percentages at my fingertips. First of all, I am committed to making the office more diverse. I don't believe that we are diverse enough. I want the office more diverse at all levels, not just support staff, not just the bureau of investigation, but the attorneys as well and, most importantly, management. I have a personal interest in this issue. My wife is Hispanic and therefore my daughter is a minority. And I will make us more diverse by reaching out to the community, by involving the community in the recruitment and hiring process and by reaching out to bar associations such as the Mexican American Bar Assn. I've already asked them if they will supply a representative of that group on our oral boards for attorney positions and we will reach out to the John M. Langston Bar Assn. that represents African American employers and ask them to be involved as well.

Q: The district attorney's case against local Hell's Angels and their associates is the most time-consuming and expensive in Ventura County history, taking years and perhaps costing millions of dollars. Is it worth the time and money?

Totten: Absolutely. These people were responsible for selling drugs to our children in public schools at various locations throughout this county. They have been a scourge on this community for decades and I think this case is going to wind up being one of the proudest moments of this office's history. We do not believe in bargain basement justice in this county and we did the right thing going after them, along with the Sheriff's Department and Ventura Police Department.

Q: People's right to die at a time of their choosing has been upheld by law in Oregon, but is now being challenged by the Bush administration. Which position do you support?

Totten: I do not support the right to die. My position is based upon my faith. However, as district attorney, I am charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law. Whatever that law may be. Regardless of whether or not I personally agree. To date here in California, we do not permit right to die.

Q: Years ago California took a step toward decriminalizing the use of marijuana by making simple possession a misdemeanor offense. Is too little or too much time now spent on investigating and prosecuting marijuana violations?

Totten: Proposition 215 unfortunately was very inartfully and very poorly drafted. It didn't give us clearly defined standards as to what amounts were appropriate for medicinal amounts and what amounts were not. I believe marijuana should continue to be a controlled substance. What needs to be done is change the law to set specific guidelines for law enforcement to use in administering it. Somebody who is possessing 25 or 30 kilos of marijuana has got far more than they need for medicinal use, and we need express guidelines that everyone can rely upon. Not just law enforcement, but the medical users themselves.

Q: You've worked for Dist. Atty. Mike Bradbury for a long time. What would you say are his greatest strengths and his biggest shortcomings?

Totten: I think that his greatest strengths are that he has consistently tried to administer an office that is committed to doing what is right as opposed to what is politically expedient. Having worked with Mike I have seen him repeatedly make decisions that are not in his political best interest, but are the right thing to do. In terms of his shortcomings, I think that Mike sometimes makes decisions too quickly. He has a less open style of management than I do and I think he's been more involved in political activities outside the office than I would be.

Q: A variety of studies have found that racial profiling by police agencies is a problem. Do you believe it is practiced here and what would you do as a prosecutor if you saw a pattern of such profiling by local police?

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