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3 Blacks Among 21 New Staffers on Cal Attorney General Bonta’s Exec Team

Venus D. Johnson now serves as chief deputy attorney general; Damon M. Brown was named special assistant attorney general, and Amy C. Alley is the policy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs. The trio joins 18 other members of the California Department of Justice’s top personnel who will be setting the standards and determining the direction of the state’s law enforcement apparatus and criminal justice system.

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Left to right: Venus Johnson, Damon Brown and Amy C. Alley. Public domain photos.
Left to right: Venus Johnson, Damon Brown and Amy C. Alley. Public domain photos.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

California Attorney General Rob Bonta last week announced the appointment of his executive team. Included are three African American attorneys with a range of administrative and litigation experience in the private and public sectors.

Venus D. Johnson now serves as chief deputy attorney general; Damon M. Brown was named special assistant attorney general, and Amy C. Alley is the policy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.

The trio joins 18 other members of the California Department of Justice’s top personnel who will be setting the standards and determining the direction of the state’s law enforcement apparatus and criminal justice system.

Johnson will oversee the Divisions of Legal Affairs, Law Enforcement, Operations, Policy, and Technology. She will also preside over the Office of Solicitor General Opinion Unit, Equal Employment Rights and Resolution Office, and the Office of Program Oversight and Accountability.

With over 15 years of legal, law enforcement, and criminal justice experience, Johnson has served in senior staff roles in the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, with the City of Oakland,and at the California Department of Justice.

She recently served as chief assistant district attorney for District Attorney Diana Becton, where she managed the overall administration of the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office. Her duties included overseeing the general operations, budget, and personnel decisions of all units within the office and serving as the district attorney in her absence.

Johnson also served as associate attorney general in the executive office of former Attorney General Kamala D. Harris where she oversaw Harris’ executive team and operated as a senior legal and policy advisor.

“Venus is a dedicated public servant who is committed to the fair and equal administration of justice,” Harris said after selecting Johnson for the Attorney General’s cabinet in 2013.

Prior to this role, Johnson was deputy attorney general/legislative advocate for former California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and deputy district attorney for Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. Johnson earned a Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Loyola Marymount University.

Brown will serve as a legal and policy advisor on civil rights. He has over 15 years of experience working with some of the most prestigious private law firms in California where he represented a diverse client base of public agencies and private businesses in a range of civil matters, including labor and employment, class action litigation, and constitutional and civil rights litigation.

Recently, Brown served as the city attorney for the City of Compton, where, as the chief legal officer for the city, he led an office of attorneys and staff responsible for advising Compton City officials on matters pertaining to their offices.

“I resigned as City Attorney on Oct. 15, 2021. Serving the residents of the great City of Compton has been a tremendous honor and I am proud of the accomplishments I was able to achieve during my tenure to protect the City’s interests, improve the structure and function of local government, and enhance the quality of life for all residents,” Brown stated on his Instagram account November 1.

Brown’s experience includes serving on the State Bar Commission for Judicial Nominees Evaluation, as president of the John M. Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles, Inc., the oldest and largest bar association in California for African American attorneys and judges, and the California Association of Black Lawyers.

Brown earned a Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt University Law School and he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and African American studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Alley will be a high-level policy advisor in the development and advocacy of legislation. She joins the Attorney General’s Office with 20 years of experience working in the public sector. She was a principal consultant to California Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), working on legislation and issues involving public safety, policing, criminal justice, and gender and racial equity.

Prior to that, Alley was a deputy attorney general in the Office of Legislative Affairs for former Attorneys General Xavier Becerra and Kamala D. Harris. There, she assisted in the development of legislative priorities for the attorney general, represented the department before the Legislature, and provided technical assistance and consultation to legislators and staff, committee consultants, and program staff.

Alley also was a legislative and communications director for former Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Sandre Swanson, after spending several years as a deputy with the Office of Legislative Counsel. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Davis, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and journalism from California State University Sacramento.

The DOJ has over 4,500 employees who are engaged in a variety of law enforcement and legal services. The department’s main offices are in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, and Fresno.

Here’s a full list of the new appointees on Bonta’s newly appointed executive team.

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Bay Area

Report Reveals California Cops Explicit Bias against African Americans

While the data show that most people consent to a search when asked by an officer, research from the report reflects that this “consent” is not necessarily voluntary because of the inherent power inequality between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public. 

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The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices. 
The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices. 

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire

A new report has revealed that California law enforcement officers searched, detained on the curb or in a patrol car, handcuffed, and removed from vehicles more individuals perceived as Black than individuals perceived as white, even though they stopped more than double the number of individuals perceived as white than individuals perceived as Black.

California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board’s report gathered information from 18 law enforcement agencies.

The data revealed that officers stopped 2.9 million individuals in 2020. Most were African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

The agency said that the data included what officers “perceived” to be the race, ethnicity, gender, and disability status of people they stopped, even if the perception was different from how the person identified.

According to the data, authorities search African Americans 2.4 times more than whites and disproportionately more than other racial and ethnic groups.

It also found that individuals officers perceived as transgender women were 2.5 times more likely to be searched than women who appeared cisgender.

Data for the report came from the state’s most important law enforcement agencies, like the California Highway Patrol.

However, the highway patrol didn’t include data analyzing stops based on gender identity.

All agencies must report the data in 2023.

“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” Chief David Swing, co-chair of the Board and past president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said in a statement.

The report further showed that Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to have force used against them compared to white individuals, while Asian and other individuals were less likely.

Specifically, the odds of having force used during a stop were 1.32 times and 1.16 times as high for Black and Hispanic individuals, respectively.

Asian and other individuals whom officers stopped had lower odds of having force used against them (0.80 and 0.82, respectively) relative to the odds for those perceived as white.

Search discovery rate analyses showed that, when officers searched individuals, all races, or ethnic groups of color, except for Asian and Middle Eastern/South Asian individuals, had higher search rates despite having lower rates of discovering contraband than individuals perceived as white.

Furthermore, a search and discovery rate analysis show that officers searched people perceived to have a mental health disability 4.8 times more often and people perceived to have other types of disabilities 2.7 times more often than people perceived to have no disability.

Still, they discovered contraband or evidence at a lower rate during stops and searches of people with disabilities.

Officers used force against individuals perceived to have mental health disabilities at 5.2 times the rate at which they used force against individuals they perceived to have no disabilities.

The data show that Black and Hispanic/Latinx individuals are asked for consent to search at higher rates than white individuals.

Officers searched Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and multiracial individuals at higher rates for consent-only searches than all other racial/ethnic groups.

These consent-only searches resulted in lower rates of discovery of contraband (8.5%, 11.3%, and 13.0%, respectively) than searches of all other racial and ethnic groups.

The reason for the stop was a traffic violation in more than half of the stops where officers conducted a consent-only search (consent being the only reason for the search) of Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Middle Eastern/South Asian individuals.

On the other hand, less than 30% of the consent-only searches of white people happened during traffic stops.

The people who wrote the report said that searches based on consent alone lead to fewer discoveries than searches based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

With consent-only searches, the rate of finding something was 9.2 percentage points lower for Black people than for white people.

“Given the disparities in the data on consent searches, the board questions whether consent searches are truly voluntary,” the authors wrote.

While the data show that most people consent to a search when asked by an officer, research from the report reflects that this “consent” is not necessarily voluntary because of the inherent power inequality between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public.

The research shows that this natural power imbalance is evident in vulnerable groups, such as people with mental health problems or young people, who may be more likely to give in to authority.

“Indeed,” the authors wrote, “RIPA data reflects that for both people with mental health disabilities and youth, a larger proportion of their stops that began as consensual encounters resulted in searches, as compared to people without mental health disabilities or adults.”

Board members said they carefully looked at the data about people who were stopped and searched because of their status as people under supervision.

The Board’s analyses reveal significant disparities that warrant further examination of law enforcement practices.

For example, officers performed supervision-only searches – where supervision status is the only basis for the search – of individuals perceived as Black at 2.8 times the rate at which they performed supervision-only searches of individuals they perceived as white.

Similarly, officers also performed supervision plus searches – where the officer had some other basis to search the person – of Black individuals at 3.3 times the rate they performed supervision plus searches of white individuals.

The rates of discovering contraband for supervision-only searches were lower for all racial/ethnic groups than white individuals; Black individuals had the most considerable difference in their discovery rate (-11.4 percentage points) compared to whites.

Officers also reported a higher proportion of supervision-only searches during stops for traffic violations (46.9%) than during reasonable suspicion stops (24.6%).

“These were just a few of the many disparities discussed in the report,” board members noted.

“Given the large disparities observed, the Board reviewed efforts by various law enforcement agencies to limit inquiries into supervision status as well as stops and searches on the basis of supervision status.

“The RIPA data further indicates that the practice of conducting supervision-only searches shows racial disparities that result in low yield rates of contraband or evidence.”

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