Eric González in Historic Race for Brooklyn DA

Eric González was born and raised in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

On April 26, Brooklyn’s Acting District Attorney Eric González launched his campaign to obtain the highest position in the borough’s District Attorney’s (DA) Office.

“I am here because I want four more years to continue the work we started,” said the first Latino in his position in the state of New York. González was former District Attorney Ken Thompson’s right hand and became the acting official when Thompson died.

At the announcement, held at the Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza, Public Advocate Letitia James and the 32BJ SEIU union declared their support of González’s campaign.

In an interview with El Diario, the son of Puerto Rican parents told us that he was raised in the Williamsburg and East New York neighborhoods. Even though his parents divorced, he said that he grew up in a loving environment.

Still, he pointed out that, in those communities, “crime was omnipresent.”

“I have been thinking about criminal justice issues since I was a high school student,” he said, remembering that he was close to being the victim of a crime and that he was “very concerned with going and coming back from school safe.”

Most of all, González is shocked about the way the system criminalized youths.

These experiences got him interested in the work of people “who can make a difference in the life of a young person by offering them a second chance.” He had never met a district attorney, and he wondered who made those decisions.

“No one growing up in the low-income communities could escape crime, and I knew that something could be done about it, but we needed to include the people of the community,” he explains while sitting in his office, where a poster of former President Barack Obama and some photographs of his favorite basketball team, the Nets, are on display.

González was the first person in his family to go to college, graduating from Cornell University in 1992. A few years later, he studied law at University of Michigan Law School, where he was the president of the Latino Law Students Association.

His first full-time job after graduation was at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. There, he observed that, although the staff was diverse, marginalized communities were not represented in high-ranking positions.

From that moment, he bet that if he worked hard, he would eventually make it to district attorney.

That is exactly what happened when Ken Thompson became the first African-American district attorney in Brooklyn. In October 2014, González became chief assistant district attorney, the first Latino ever to hold that position in the borough.

Under Thompson’s leadership, González worked on the creation of a Conviction Review Unit, and changed and implemented policy to process people accused of marijuana possession.

“I am very aware that it was the first African-American DA who paved the way for the first Latino DA,” said González about Thompson, whom he considers his mentor.

Now that he has that position, González is introducing reforms to make courts more just for communities of color and low-income communities.

When he announced his campaign, he made it known that he has instructed his office to consider incarceration the last resort for youths, not the first.

“Laws should solve problems,” he said, sitting behind his desk, from where he has a view of Brooklyn and Manhattan. “To our youths, that means that we need to play a role in helping them come out of the criminal justice system, not allowing them to continue committing misdemeanors until they end up committing a more serious crime and then we are forced to jail them.”

González lives with his wife and three children near Woodhull, Brooklyn, where he makes sure to expose them to Puerto Rican music, food and culture. He spends most of his spare time with them, but you can also find him playing dominoes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *