The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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First Female District Attorney Elected in Dallas County

First Female District Attorney Elected in Dallas County

Dallas’ 291st District Attorney, Susan Hawk, will take office in January as the first female District Attorney in Dallas County.

Dallas County will in­augurate its first woman District At­torney into office this January. With this change of office, there will be many adjustments regarding the integration between the com­munity and the governmental procedures, as well as many improvements within the de­partment itself.

Susan Hawk, a woman in a high government position, will pave the way for Hocka­day students and countless others to follow her footsteps and enter a new sphere in politics. With Hawk in charge, Dallas can expect numerous changes that will better con­nect the criminal justice sys­tem with the community.

Susan Hawk began her professional journey when she was offered a position at the Dallas District Attorney’s office after graduating from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in 1995. She was hired to work under the DA at the time, John Vance. Hawk focused on prosecuting child abuse cases. After spending seven years working as an assistant DA, Hawk was elected as the 291st district court judge and served from 2003 to 2013.

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ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTINE JI
ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTINE JI

“I was a judge for 11 years and then I was on the bench and just had a front row seat to what was happening in the criminal justice system,” Hawk said. “I just thought that I could do a much better job. So I re­signed to run for DA.”

Hawk noticed that politi­cal agendas were often coming into play before the welfare of citizens, skewing right from wrong within the justice sys­tem. “I did run as a Republican, but I said from the beginning that it should never come into play when we are making deci­sions, because it affects peoples’ lives,” Hawk said.

Juliette Turner, a junior at Hockaday and president of the Young Republican’s Club, agreed with Hawk about the role of politics in the job of the district attorney.

“I think it’s a struggle, but if you have the right diplo­matic abilities and are able to negotiate across the aisle and not polarize your political op­ponents, then that’s really the best way to get policies in place,” Turner said.

Steve Spencer, who teach­es World History and United States Government, also be­lieves that keeping politics out of the DA’s office might be difficult.

“This idea of government officials not being political, that would be a nice ideal. But the reality is that she ran af­filiated with a political party as did her opponent; they come into office affiliated with a po­litical perspective and point of view and set of values, and then all of a sudden, they don’t reflect that in office? That seems a little bit unrealistic,” Spencer said.

Hawk also hopes to focus on stimulating relationships between law enforcement and the community as well as bet­ter connecting the DA’s office to law enforcement.

“I’m going to try and de­velop relationships where I can ensure that no matter where you live in Dallas County, when a crime is committed, no mat­ter if you are a citizen, police officer, professional, it doesn’t matter, you will get prosecut­ed,” Hawk said.

After investigating a case, the police must give all the information collected to the District Attorney’s office. With this information, the DA de­cides whether or not there is enough evidence to prove be­yond reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed to further an investigation.

“I believe that it is the dis­trict attorney’s job to keep the community safe. Most impor­tant is to prioritize which types of cases get prosecuted so if you have violent offenders or ha­bitual offenders, they need to be prosecuted,” Hawk said.

When she takes office in January, Hawk plans to start a mentorship program between senior and young attorneys. “They could advise them and help them make [decisions]. I had that, so it was able to make me more successful in a lot of ways,” Hawk said.

Hawk’s philosophy is to find solutions to problems. She plans to start a diversion program so that an individual can get the help they need before be­ing convicted. She wants to “really understand the causes of a crime.” Rather than put­ting someone in jail, Hawk believes that “instead of just putting some­one in jail,” it is better to “fix the various prob­lems that, in [her] mind, are fixable.”

Spencer agrees that diver­sion programs would be a good idea. “If she can come up with a program that would help people not continue with criminal acts or be able to somehow re-enter into society, that’d be great!” Spencer said.

As a woman, Hawk has had to overcome many obsta­cles to get to the position she is in today. Throughout her jour­ney, people told her that she could not do it, that she was to young, too inexperienced, but she kept remembering her dad’s advice: “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t just be­cause you are a girl. Do a job that nobody else wants to do and do it well-done.”

However, Hawk does not want her legacy to just be the first woman District Attor­ney in Dallas County history; she wants it to be much more than that.

“I want it to be that I did my very best and I was the best DA that I could possibly be,” Hawk said.

While history has shown that breaking away from just having a legacy of being the first woman to do something is difficult, Turner believes that it is possible. “I think she will have a legacy of reform­ing the judicial system in Dal­las; that will be her legacy and being a woman will just be a great plus.”

Spencer believes that being a wom­an would not affect Hawk’s job in any way. “We’ve had lots of ‘firsts’ already; it would be nice to just get beyond that and judge her based on her performance as the DA,” Spencer said.

Despite what some may think, be­ing a woman does not change the nature of how Hawk will do her job.

“Women tend to have a unique per­spective with dif­ferent issues, but it’s not going to be skewed in any way, just sim­ply because I am a woman,” Hawk said. I just think that as a woman, you just have to prove yourself, just like in any other job.”

  • Ashna Kumar

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