Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said police shootings and cases of alleged brutality by law enforcement officials should investigated independently, breaking with her long-held resistance to taking prosecutorial discretion away from elected district attorneys, Politico reports. Harris, a former prosecutor and California attorney general, had long advocated in favor of preserving prosecutorial discretion, taking heat from civil rights activists and African-American leaders. While running for Senate in 2016, she was criticized for withholding her support for state legislation requiring the Attorney General’s office to probe fatal police shootings. Now, campaigning for president, Harris was asked about her stance amid calls for more scrutiny over the investigative process. “I believe the best approach is to have independent investigations,” Harris told MSNBC.
When Harris addressed the question in 2014, she took the opposite approach. Harris said she didn’t think it good public policy to take the discretion from elected district attorneys. “I don’t think there’s an inherent conflict. … Where there are abuses, we have designed the system to address them,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. Harris never took over an officer-involved fatality investigation while serving as attorney general. In 2016, a Harris spokeswoman said the then-attorney general sought money in the state budget to create three teams within in office to conduct criminal investigations of officer-involved shootings. The budget request was denied. Harris’ remarks Monday appear to be the first time she’s advocated for a blanket approach to independent probes. Harris said she opposed independent probes when she was San Francisco District Attorney and critics said an outsider should take a 2004 case in which she refused to seek the death penalty against a gang member who fatally shot a city police officer.