Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin is draping himself in conflicts of interest in his attempt to convince voters to keep him in office.
In a recent campaign letter, Hestrin presents a long list of his supporters. In large print, the Riverside County Sheriff had Bianco, whom Hestrin described as a personal friend. Hestrin also lists several police unions that support him.
Although Hestrin wants Riverside County residents to interpret the list as showing the support he has for law enforcement, what the list really shows is that the Riverside County criminal justice system is controlled by the police unions.
Bianco, for example, is now best known for his far-right political views. He ran for sheriff in 2018 at the request of the Riverside Sheriffs Association and benefited from approximately $1 million in expenses from the union and other police unions.
The long list of police unions Hestrin cites as supporting him speaks for itself.
Hestrin, as district attorney, is sure to insist that it has no impact on his judgment. He told our editorial board that the unions’ support simply reflects the thoughts of law enforcement professionals on the ground. But as anyone who understands public service unions knows, that’s just not the whole story. Civil servant unions are fundamentally about power and influence. They only want elected officials who will give them what they want in power. They don’t care about the interests of the public or the integrity issues of the prosecution.
Hestrin has already shown that this influence can reach him. He chose to pass the buck in the case of the now fired Los Angeles Police Department officer who shot and killed a mentally ill man and injured the man’s parents. Fortunately, Attorney General Rob Bonta took over the case after Hestrin declined to press charges and has since filed charges against the officer.
Will there be other cases where Hestrin does the same? It seems likely.
While it’s unfortunate that Bianco only received one challenger, late in the game we’re hoping appeals attorney Lara Gressley, who we endorsed, and former judge Burke Strunsky can force Hestrin to show up. Police unions should not run the justice system.