JoAnn Walker (left) and Pamela Price announced today they will run for sheriff and district attorney in 2022. Credit: Courtesy Vinnie Bacon

Alameda County’s district attorney and sheriff will both face challengers in the 2022 election.

Pamela Price, a civil rights attorney who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in 2018, said today that she plans to run again. And 25-year veteran San Francisco Police Officer JoAnn Walker will run against incumbent Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

Price and Walker, both Black women, said in press releases today that their campaigns will mount progressive challenges to Alameda County’s two top law enforcement officials. Black women have never held the role of district attorney or sheriff in Alameda County’s 168-year history. Every sheriff has been a white man, and O’Malley, appointed in 2009 and re-elected three times, was the first woman to ever hold the office of district attorney in the county.

“Instead of investing in meaningful and effective mental health services, de-escalation, bias training, and restorative justice, Alameda County has moved in the opposite direction with a militarized police force,” Walker said in a press statement. “It is time for change and for county law enforcement to focus on truly protecting and serving residents in order to keep communities safe.”

“The events of 2020 pulled back the curtain on the broken system of criminal justice, exposing the racial, socioeconomic and gender disparities within the nation’s criminal justice system. It is time to restore the public trust in how justice plays out in Alameda County,” said Price.

Price is a Yale graduate with a U.C. Berkeley School of Law degree who has practiced civil rights and employment law in the Bay Area since 1983. In the 2018 campaign for district attorney, Price received 123,000 votes while O’Malley received 168,000. Price received more support in the county’s northeastern cities, including Oakland and Berkeley, while O’Malley did much better in suburban cities like Livermore and Fremont.

Walker, who has worked for the San Francisco Police Department for 25 years, is a 40-year resident of Alameda County. She’s been recognized several times for her work to promote community policing, a strategy that focuses on building relationships between residents and police officers to solve problems identified by community members. In 2016, she received the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service In Community Policing.

O’Malley didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if she plans to run for reelection in 2020. She joined the district attorney’s office in 1984 and is known as a victim’s advocate. She opposed some of California’s recent attempts at criminal justice reforms like Proposition 47, but made headlines last year by charging a San Leandro police officer with voluntary manslaughter for shooting a man experiencing a mental-health crisis in a Walmart.

Price’s announcement comes a day after she and other civil rights attorneys and local elected officials, including BART Directors Lateefah Simon and Bevan Dufty, criticized O’Malley for deciding not to file charges against a former BART officer who played a role in the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009.

Walker said in her press statement today that her campaign will focus on Ahern’s handling of conditions at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail, where numerous people have died in custody in recent years, and where several COVID-19 outbreaks have occured since March. Ahern’s critics have also called on him to stop cooperating with federal immigration agents who are allowed access to the Santa Rita Jail to arrest people on immigration charges.

The Oaklandside was unable to contact Ahern for a response because he does not have a campaign website and his 2018 campaign filings with the county do not include telephone or email information.

Ahern ran unopposed in 2018, 2014, 2010, and 2006. He joined the sheriff’s office in 1980, worked in the jails and was promoted to patrol sergeant in 1986. Ahern was promoted to the rank of captain in 2003 and assistant sheriff in 2006. He is a past board member and president of the California State Sheriff’s Association, an influential law enforcement group that has helped shape criminal justice policies in the state for several decades. He was first elected in 2006 after then-Sheriff Charles Plummer handpicked Ahern as his successor.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.