SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow may be up for re-election in 2022, but that’s not stopping him from courting voters in all the wrong places and undermining the integrity of his office in the process.
Traditionally, the role of District Attorney is a nonpartisan one. There’s a reason for that. Adding partisanship to the traditionally nonpartisan District Attorney position can create the appearance of bias and partiality. In other words, politics can play a significant factor in determining whether or not a case is properly or thoroughly pursued.
Around the time when 20-year-old Black protest organizer Tianna Arata was arrested after one of her protests in July, Dow was commenting on the protest on his Facebook page. We later learned the decision to arrest Arata was made in coordination with Dow’s office and the San Luis Obispo Police Department. Before Dow announced that he was pursuing 13 misdemeanor charges against Arata, Black Lives Matter protesters and Arata supporters called for him to drop his case against her. In September, when protesters attempted to submit over 500,000 petitions demanding that her charges be dropped, Dow’s office rejected them, stating in part, “While mindful of the complexity and sensitivity of the broader social justice conversation, we would be in violation of our ethical duty if we were to make a filing decision based on public sentiment.”
Let’s talk about public sentiment.
In their statement to the media, the District Attorney’s Office was clearly referencing public sentiment coming from people who wanted Arata’s charges to be vacated. But his office’s statements steered clear of any mention of public sentiment from people who wanted him to charge Arata to the fullest extent of the law.
“Protect Paso” is an invite-only Facebook group originally created to support law enforcement amid Black Lives Matter protests that took place throughout SLO County. “Protect,” a local brand of Facebook groups that have appeared throughout the county, is also widely recognized as a hotbed for far-right extremism, conspiracy theories and calls for violence against protesters. In September, Dow wrote a lengthy post to members of Protect Paso, explaining why he couldn’t pursue felony charges and only 13 misdemeanor charges…