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Prosecutor's online post stirs racial profiling controversy

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Washington County deputy district attorney's online discussion of Donald Trump, stereotypes sparks criticism


A Washington County prosecutor’s internet post defending racial profiling has some local defense attorneys concerned.

Deputy District Attorney Zoe Smith is “on board” with “the anti-politically correct movement to support Trump,” Smith wrote recently on her Facebook page. She added, “If you’re looking for a terrorist, look at a young Muslim male. If you’re looking for a gang shooter, look for a young black guy. If you’re looking for a child molester or a mass shooter, look for a white guy. That’s just common sense.”

Smith’s facebook page is set to private, but a screenshot of the post has been circulating among defense lawyers, one of whom shared it with Pamplin Media.

Asked to comment on the posting, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association President Edward Kroll shared a letter he sent Sunday to Washington County District Attorney Robert Hermann. FACEBOOK - A deputy prosecutor's post on racial profiling has stirred controversy.

“When a member of your office publicly voices that racial profiling is ‘just common sense,’ frankly, it is terrifying,” Kroll wrote. “Given Washington County's diversity and future growth potential, I trust this is not a message that your office would support.”

In an email, Hermann wrote, "The Washington County District Attorney’s Office in no way supports any message or opinion that “racial profiling” is appropriate, makes “common sense” or has a place in our Criminal Justice system. Our obligation has been and always will be to insure that our Criminal Justice system treats all victims, defendants and witnesses fairly and justly. Any messaging to the contrary erodes the public’s confidence in all the good work so many people do.

"Although Ms. Smith’s post was on her own personal account, posted after business hours, unrelated to office business and her specific duties we are nonetheless reviewing them and discussing with her the potential effect they may have on members of our community."

He said he could not comment further due to personnel rules.

Smith, a Lewis & Clark School of Law graduate, was admitted to the Oregon State Bar to practice law in 2005. She serves on the county bar organization's board. Asked Monday about her posting, she wrote in an email, “I have always supported treating every person equally regardless of race, religion, gender, or class.”

Smith's mention of Trump appears to allude to the Republican presidential candidate’s remarks that defended profiling people based on race or religion.

In a follow-up post on Facebook the prosecutor did apologize for hurting the feelings of some people she cares about, and also elaborated on her earlier post.

“I want everyone to know that the comment was intended to further an ongoing political discussion and to make a point. It was not meant to be taken literally or as a comment on what I do for a living,” she wrote.

“For those who know me, you know that I am open-minded and a pragmatist. I usually want to cut to the chase and find a solution. My point was first and foremost that we are all in this together. Every group of people has their stars and those they'd rather disclaim. My point was only, lets acknowledge that and then move on. We don't have to believe every stereo-type but sometimes they can help frame the issue.

“One of my favorite quotes is by Chimamanga Ngozi Adich, an author,” Smith added. “She explains, ‘The problem with stereo-types is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.’ That's how I feel. To ignore race, or education, or background is un-productive. Acknowledge it and move on to a solution that works for us all.

“I hope this helps give some context to my point. I have always tried very hard to give everyone I interact with a fair shake. This was purely an intellectual discussion, not a play-book for law enforcement.”

Kroll, from the defense lawyers group, says Smith has always been professional and polite when he faced her in court. But her apology doesn't settle his concerns.

"It does nothing to walk back the blatant racial profiling that was contained in the original," he says. "I would think that such blanket declarations about a race or races of people have no part in today's society."