Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Candidates Debate at The City Club
By Elizabeth Miller
In the first public debate between the two Democratic candidates for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor on Tuesday, incumbent Timothy McGinty and opponent Michael O’Malley answered questions from a moderator and the audience at the City Club of Cleveland. Each candidate addressed police use of force cases and challenged each other’s past.
The debate opened with a question about the grand jury process, asking prosecutor McGinty if the Tamir Rice case took too long to reach a conclusion. McGinty said yes, in hindsight, the police-involved shooting of the 12 year old could have been handled faster and better.
But he said his office has learned from the Rice case and the Michael Brelo trial. Last spring, Officer Brelo was acquitted of manslaughter charges stemming from a 2012 cross-town car chase
“These are tough decisions. It’s tough to decide to recommend a charge, or not to charge," said McGinty.
“In this case, some of the lessons we’ve learned we’re going to correct with dash cams, body cams and other training reforms and discipline.”
Parma Public Safety Director Michael O’Malley - who’s taking a leave from his job - emphasized that he’s been campaigning in the community. He said he’ll continue to address public concerns, especially in minority communities, if elected.
“They can pick up the phone and have an honest dialogue with me on the issues that are plaguing their community, knowing that if I don’t answer my phone, that their call will be returned,” said O'Malley.
Both O’Malley and McGinty support legislation that would send all police lethal use-of-force cases to the state Attorney General’s office.
The debate also had its tense moments. O’Malley challenged McGinty’s reputation in the community and with judges.
“My opponent does not have the temperament to work with others or to work to improve the justice system for victims and defendants," said O'Malley.
McGinty, in his closing statement, referred to O’Malley’s past position under former prosecutor Bill Mason.
"Is this county going to have a professional prosecutor's office like we established – a non-political office, or go back to the political patronage machine that failed to stop and see the corruption that so damaged our community?” said McGinty.
O’Malley and McGinty are the only candidates running in the March 15 primary, so the winner will likely become prosecutor.