THE BRONX — New District Attorney Darcel Clark pledged to bring “lasting change” to the borough during her inauguration, saying she would use her office to ensure justice for victims and defendants alike.
“This is an important time in our borough’s history because this is the first time in 27 years that The Bronx will have a new district attorney,” Clark said. “It is an ideal opportunity to again help define the identity of The Bronx: where we have been, where we are today and where we are going.”
Although Clark assumed the office of Bronx District Attorney on Jan. 1, her inauguration did not take place until Saturday afternoon at Lehman College, when she officially took the oath of office at a ceremony attended by elected officials including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Clark said the DA’s office should serve as “a beacon of integrity, justice and hope” and pledged to use her office to tackle a host of issues including gun violence, government corruption, police-community relations and Rikers Island.
She promised to establish an office at the Rikers Island jail and work to ensure that anyone who was wrongfully jailed or convicted would be freed.
"We must protect the innocent against unfounded prosecutions that affect their liberty and is devastating to their good names and reputations, so that those accused know that the government is there to protect them as well," she said.
Although Clark praised former Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson for the work he had done while in office, she also pledged to tackle the significant case backlog in the borough’s criminal justice system, which had been one of the main criticisms of Johnson’s tenure.
“We no longer will allow needless delays to hinder prosecution and deny justice for both victims and defendants,” she said.
Clark won the election for Bronx District Attorney against Republican Robert Siano, but her nomination process was clouded by controversy after the former DA, Robert Johnson, traded his office for a judgeship in a deal with Democratic Party leaders. Clark was selected as a candidate by those same Bronx County party leader rather than by the voters.
This has led to speculation and fears that she would be beholden to and thus reluctant to investigate Democratic officials in The Bronx, but Clark offered an implicit rebuke to this claim in her speech by saying she was creating a public integrity unit within her office to focus on corruption among public officials.
“I will follow the evidence wherever it leads,” she said. “The public will not trust us if we don’t protect them from corrupt officials.”
De Blasio praised voters for making a good choice when electing Clark as the borough’s new DA.
“The people of The Bronx got it right, my friends. They chose Darcel Clark,” he said. “We say thank you to the voters.”
Clark is the first woman to hold the position of District Attorney in The Bronx and the first African-American woman to become a District Attorney in New York State.
"We definitely do not have enough woman elected officials," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who also spoke at Clark's inauguration. "That is why moments like the ones today are so important and so inspirational, that it will definitely inspire other women and challenge the structures to make sure that we elect women to office."