Our Opinion: Harrington begins new era as DA
The theme of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington's swearing in ceremony Wednesday was "Unity," and it was encouraging to see the large crowd at the Berkshire Museum united in support of the county's first female district attorney. The DA is the point person for the fight against crime, but a unified effort by elected officials, law enforcement and average citizens is required to confront a difficult problem facing the Berkshires.
In that vein, Ms. Harrington asked audience members in the museum's Crane Room to work "shoulder to shoulder with me" to achieve the goals that formed the backbone of her campaign. Her determination to address sexual- and gender-based violence expressed shortly after taking the oath of office Wednesday was a core campaign promise from the Richmond progressive, as was her promise to attack addiction issues through prevention and treatment. She spoke of the gun violence problem, which is prominent in but not exclusive to Pittsfield, and of her determination to assure that people of color feel safe and protected.
The election of Ms. Harrington was a two-pronged process, first the Democratic primary, than the general election, that was lengthy and frequently heated. For this reason it was good to see former District Attorney Paul Caccaviello, who battled her in the primary and again as a write-in campaign in November, and his predecessor, David Capeless, in the audience Wednesday. For her part, Ms. Harrington graciously acknowledged Mr. Caccaviello's kindness and support during what could have been a contentious transition period. Mr. Caccaviello told The Eagle that he wants to remain in public service, a field where he certainly has much to offer given his years of experience in the legal system.
Five assistant district attorneys have left the DA's office, with second district attorney Joseph Pieropan expected to retire after a transition period, and while this is to be anticipated after a changing of the guard it represents a loss for an office that must hit the ground running. Encouragingly, new First Assistant District Attorney Karen Bell, a veteran Hampden County prosecutor who will oversee Superior Court cases, has been on the job since Dec. 10 to help ease that transition. The new DA's transition team is headed by the highly respected former state Supreme Court Justice Francis X. Spina, who swore Ms. Harrington into office on Wednesday.
Ms. Harrington promised in her campaign to bring greater diversity to the DA's office, which is reflected by a couple of her first appointments. Bilingual attorney Rose Colon is part of the new team of assistant district attorneys, a hiring process that is not yet complete, and attorney Stephanie Ilberg-Lamm will will head a new child abuse unit.
The high profile job of district attorney is a difficult one that requires the balancing of interests among various constituencies whose goals may not be the same. The team approach the new DA plans to employ, along with the transparency necessary for all groups to know their interests are being taken into consideration even though they may not always be happy with the results,
will serve DA Harrington well in the months and years ahead.
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