By Autre Murray
In Kalamazoo County, two candidates are facing off this year for the office of prosecuting attorney. The incumbent candidate, Jeffery Getting, promises to continue his preventive tactics toward crime, his opponent, Donald Smith, wants a more aggressive approach for the office within the county’s criminal justice system.
Getting said his experience in handling high profile cases far outweighs Donald Smith’s experience. More importantly, Getting said there is a difference in philosophy concerning the use of Kalamazoo’s jailing system.
Smith, the Republican Party candidate, said he supports preventive programs for non-violent offenders such as sobriety courts and other specialty courts. Still, Smith said he believes violent offenders and career criminals should be held more accountable for their actions. Smith said if he were elected, his office will be swift and aggressive toward violent offenders, especially on those who are repeat offenders. He said the jail resources are limited, specifically the amount of space available, and that they should be enhanced in a way that reflects the tough reputation he hopes to build for the prosecuting attorney office. Smith said he also views the community’s safety as top priority, and that a prosecuting attorney’s first allegiance should be to the general society.
In addition, Smith said he has been working with the Kalamazoo community since 1994, in which he started out working in Child Protective Services. He said that his experience in CPS and as an attorney gives him an interpersonal advantage with people. Smith also said he will look to diversify the prosecuting attorney office because he believes the office should mirror the community it serves.
Getting, the Democratic Party candidate and incumbent, said he believes he has gained the trust of the community by expanding problem-solving courts that address the issues leading to crime such as drugs and mental health. Getting said being tough on crime means being tough on offenders overall, and that filling jails is simply not enough.
“Making sure our jails are full is not good for this office, it’s not good for the community, and it’s not the proper way to look at the criminal justice system,” Getting said. “The goal is not to see how many people you can lock up, the goal is to run the system in a way to make sure the right people are incarcerated, and that the system as a whole is ran to address the problems in a way that keeps people from coming back into the system. Locking somebody up doesn’t do that.”
Getting said he will continue to ensure that justice is being done, while making sure the system works on behalf of the victims and is fair toward defendants. Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeffrey Hadley remains neutral in who should win, though he said Getting is very fair-minded and has dealt with issues in a holistic way. Hadley said he respects Getting’s leadership and believes he has done a wonderful job as prosecuting attorney.