Diversity in the DA's Office
DDA Rachel Cano
1. Why did you choose a career as a prosecutor?
I went to law school so I could return to my community - the Latino community-and help those who needed help the most. While looking at legal careers in law school, I did not immediately think of prosecution as a way of empowering my community. However, now that I have been a prosecutor for 13 years, I realize it has enabled me to help my community in a way I would never have visualized in law school. Being a prosecutor is an enormous responsibility because we ultimately make the decision to file charges or not file charges against someone. When the decision is made to file charges, we are therefore putting an individual's liberty at stake. Only by having a diverse group of prosecutors who represent many segments of society can the system be seen as fair for all involved.
2. Why would an attorney of color choose a career as a prosecutor?
Those attorneys of color who wish to return to their communities to make a difference do have a variety of choices regarding how to make that impact. However, becoming a prosecutor is one of the most visible and measurable ways. The criminal justice system, unfortunately, involves both victims and suspects who are from every community. A fair minded prosecutor, who is keenly aware and in touch with their community, can make the best decisions given all of the circumstances in a case. A prosecutor who has gained such insight into the community can thereby make a huge impact on the lives of victims and defendants. A career as a prosecutor takes courage, dedication and commitment to the ultimate goal that every community deserves-justice.
3. Why is it significant to communities to have prosecutors who are from diverse groups?
I encourage minority college and law students to choose a career in prosecution as a way of helping their communities. Shortly after becoming a prosecutor, I realized that many times victims of color do not report crimes because they do not think the "system" will believe a minority or do anything about the crime that occurs in a minority community. Being a prosecutor whom people of color can identify with allows real justice to be done for the members of a minority community. It also allows those victims to spread the word in their communities that they do not have to put up with crime because there are police officers and prosecutors who understand their situation and will seek justice on their behalf. Helping victims of crime through the confusing criminal justice system, and empowering them not to allow crime in their communities, has been extremely rewarding. I truly feel I am helping those who need help the most.
4. What advice would you give minority students who aspire to become prosecutors?
I would encourage you to learn as much as you can about the realities of being a prosecutor. If that is truly your calling, then delve into the practical necessities to make a career as a prosecutor happen. In order to achieve this goal, you must first go to college and then law school. While a law student, take as many trial practice classes as possible, intern at a prosecutor's office or with a judge who does trial work, sign up for clinical programs that will expose you to clients, and also make contacts with prosecutors through local bar associations. You will need to continually assess the progress you are making toward your career goals. Finally, don't be shy about seeking career guidance from attorneys or judges who can help you achieve the goal of becoming a prosecutor.