Brooklyn District Attorney
Jun 16, 2022
Eric Gonzalez made history in November 2017 when he became the first Latino district attorney elected in New York State. He assumed the post after the 2016 death of Ken Thompson, who three years earlier had become the first Black D.A. in Brooklyn.
But with a promise to helm “the most progressive D.A.’s office in the country,” he didn’t stop making history there.
In March of 2019, Gonzalez unveiled his signature reform package, Justice 2020, which he pitched as a “new national model of a progressive prosecutor’s office.”
The program includes 17 initiatives in all. Among them: creating more alternatives to incarceration through community-based organizations and otherwise considering non-jail resolutions at every juncture of a criminal case; establishing early release as the default position in most parole proceedings; and establishing new protocols for investigating police misconduct.
“I’ve tried to redefine the role of a prosecutor, and I’ve tried to have cultural change in the district attorney’s office,” Gonzalez told City and State at the time.
Case in point: In his first term, Gonzalez ceased trying low-level pot offenses and backed discovery reform. He also dismissed 90 drug convictions tainted by a corrupt police detective, and he demanded changes to state bail reform laws.
But by the start of his second term earlier this year, shootings were on the uptick in the borough — and so were criticisms from the right — and the public had gotten increasingly anxious about public safety.
These are tough times for a self-described progressive prosecutor.
Gonzalez is as Brooklyn as it gets. Raised in Bushwick and East New York when both were synonymous with drugs and violence, he attended I.S. 318 on the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, and then John Dewey High School in Gravesend. He enrolled in Cornell University and then the University of Michigan Law School. He started working at the Brooklyn district attorney’s office in 1995, where he has been ever since — gradually rising through the ranks. He lives less than a mile from where he grew up with his wife and three sons in Williamsburg.
“To me, being progressive is not simply about not prosecuting cases,” Gonzalez told The New York Times earlier this year. “It’s about using the resources to protect communities.”