I arrived at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association (TDCAA) Conference held in Austin earlier this week. The City known as the Live Music Capital of the World is one of the fastest growing areas of the US and draws people from all over the world because of its university, abundant entertainment, and active lifestyle. At one hotel in The Domain located minutes from the historic IBM research campus the topics being discussed were decidedly more serious. In the aftermath of the Ferguson and New York grand jury decisions not to indict officers involved in the tragic deaths of two black men.
At one of the first sessions the panel of presenters espoused ideas for new and longtime prosecutors to help navigate this difficult time. “What does an effective office look like? How do we take our office from good to great?” The question from one of the panelists struck a chord with me because my company’s leadership team recently read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great as part of our strategic planning process.
We talked about Robert McCulloch. A name most people won’t recognize, but everyone in this group knew – Mr. McCulloch is the Prosecuting Attorney in Ferguson, Missouri. Domestic Violence has received increased attention in recently months due to several high profile cases in the NFL including one filed, and recently settled, against Adrian Peterson by a Texas, DA. The reality is the elected officials in this room deal with domestic violence cases on a daily basis.
The panel discussed 5 tenets to earning and maintaining the respect of their employees, law enforcement agencies, judges, and the communities they serve:
Communication is an integral component of all tenets. One of the speakers reminded me of an old saying, “it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a minute to lose it.” Law enforcement and District Attorneys need to restore credibility in light of recent events. That involves treating people consistently, getting out into the communities they serve and talking with their constituents. Don’t just accept speaking engagements with people that agree with your political beliefs, but more importantly speak to those that disagree.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a paragraph about technology. In addition to IBM, Austin’s northwest corridor is home to Dell, Oracle, Samsung, EMC, Emerson, Symantec and more. Technology is playing a critical role in transforming District and County Attorney offices throughout the state. Whether to comply with the Michael Morton Act as it relates to discovery, implementing new Case Management Systems allowing for easier storage, and retrieval, of digital media evidence, or implementing technology to process documents more quickly for increased transparency.
I left Austin with a lot better understanding of the responsibilities a prosecutor faces today, and a confidence that this group is up to the challenge.