Rosemary Chavez was born in Montebello and raised in Pico Rivera, so she knows Southern California. When she was five, her father was killed in a car accident while driving under the influence. This early exposure to loss left her feeling disenfranchised, vulnerable, and powerless.
Her desire to improve her quality of life and the lives of those around her led her to the city attorney’s office in Los Angeles. After working as a prosecutor for 26 years and handling over 4,000 cases, she quit her job to run for Long Beach City Prosecutor.
“Long Beach is interesting because of all the different communities, from Fisherman’s to the Port to the Downtown Core,” she says. “It’s huge and diverse, but that’s the beauty of it.” Her goal is to make the city safer so that the constant mix and interaction between these different communities can continue.
Through her association with the past president of Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club, Chavez has been made aware of the discriminatory enforcement within the LGBT community.
“The police seem to think that there is a problem with two gay men “contacting” each other in a public restroom.” She feels that the Long Beach Police Department is misusing its resources to create stings where officers pose as men who want to make contact.
She also notes that “if it’s a problem—if there are neighborhood complaints—then certainly, something needs to be addressed, but there should be a resolution that creates education and behavioral changes and not stigmatizes and punishes someone for behavior that they essentially get encouraged to display.”
People caught in those stings often have clean records. Chavez feels prosecutors should keep that in mind and look at the whole picture. She suggests a diversion program, which will define what is appropriate within a certain place and time.
“If someone’s arrested for the first time on lewd conduct because an officer implies that that conduct would be welcome, I think I have a problem with that,” she says.
Chavez is a prosecutor with the people’s best interests in mind. She compares misdemeanor prosecution to “social work with a hammer.”
“The thing about enforcing the laws with respect to misdemeanors is that you want everyone to feel safe. You want everyone to feel like we’re all gonna obey the rules,” she says. “I don’t believe that everyone has to go to jail for the fullest extent possible.”
Among her defense attorney colleagues, she has a reputation for not judging offenders by anything other than the facts of their case.
“All different kinds of people can interact in Long Beach, with little friction and little difficulty and hopefully, they won’t need to come in contact with the city prosecutor’s office.”