North Side Pitch

Jennifer Joyce crosses the racial divide to walk the streets and talk about crime

Brown accuses the Shark of having fewer African-Americans working for her than Hayes did -- an accusation the Shark forcefully counters. Since taking office, the Shark says, she's more than doubled the total number of African-Americans working in her 55-attorney office, from four to nine -- still a paltry 16 percent in a city that has a majority black population.

Two senior African-American prosecutors, Trent Mitchell and Paula Bryant, hold top management slots -- Mitchell runs a section that handles all drug cases; Bryant heads a five-attorney trial team and is in charge of recruiting minority attorneys. Bryant's recruiting duties serve as a reminder that the Shark has stiff competition for minority attorneys from law firms that can offer $90,000 starting salaries when she can offer just a little better than a third of that.

The Shark has a total of 130 people working for her, including fifteen African-American investigators on a roster of 33. Seven of those African-American investigators were hired by her. Of the twelve victim-services counselors in her office, seven are African-American, and five of them were hired by her.

But numbers only tell part of the Shark's tentative journey toward political independence. What's more important is her exposure to people such as Mary Taylor, whose house has been firebombed and shot up because of her unyielding stance against gangbangers and drug dealers.

"You have to let 'em know: 'I'm big and bold and I'm not going away,'" Taylor says. "I've seen a lot of 'em go down in the grave and to the penitentiary, and I'm still here."

Now that's a crime-fighter. The Shark should take note.

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