Paul Ostrow appreciates that the race for Hennepin County Attorney is nonpartisan.
On the campaign trail, he said he gets the largest ovations when he mentions he is not running with party affiliation.
“People are really frustrated with what they see as the political system not working, the party system not working,” Ostrow said. “We are not fixing problems.”
Ostrow, 63, said the Hennepin County Attorney is in the unique position of uniting the city, suburbs, and exurbs, as well as law enforcement with various communities, and he said those connections are “desperately needed.”
“Wearing a big ‘D’ or an ‘R’ on our lapels doesn’t further that interest at all,” Ostrow said.
Ostrow, who was raised in Golden Valley, has lived in northeast Minneapolis for more than 30 years and has been working in law enforcement in some capacity for nearly 40 years. He has 25 years of experience as a prosecutor at the city and county levels and served three terms on the Minneapolis City Council. That includes a stint as council president that he said involved work with diverse communities and led to relationships with foundations and members of the business community he maintains today.
Currently, Ostrow is an assistant county attorney for Anoka County in the criminal division.
If given the opportunity to take over the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, Ostrow wants to improve transparency, prosecute violent crimes and safeguard the rights and due process of every resident.
On violent crime, Ostrow said he would enforce the law and would not embrace proposals to uniformly stop charging lower-level felony offenses.
“As a general rule, I am not a proponent of saying we won’t charge a certain offense,” Ostrow said. He did add, though, that he would not prosecute against a woman’s “fundamental right” to “control her reproductive future and freedom.”
Ostrow said that if elected, he would hold fentanyl dealers accountable with stiffer penalties, aggressively prosecute carjacking cases, get stolen and illegal firearms off the streets and create a standing committee for reducing violent crime.
Ostrow’s plan also includes empowering victims of violent crime and providing transparency in all charging decisions with tools like a public dashboard that will provide public data on felony cases. He vows to put an end to what he calls the “catch-and-release” of violent offenses by finding ways to hold violent offenders through options like making significantly higher requests for bail. He also aims to change the juvenile justice system to prevent violent offenders from being released back into the community.
“We’re looking at a small number of juveniles involved in carjacking rings, which is also true for adult offenders,” Ostrow said. “One of the dynamics is that a relatively small number of people can disrupt the public safety and security for the 1.3 million people who live in the county. For 95% or more of juveniles, we want to get them back to the community and community treatment.”
Ostrow believes the best way to safeguard the rights and due process of residents is by building better partnerships between the county attorney’s office and police departments and gaining access to arrest numbers in order to gauge where inequitable enforcement might be occurring. He also wants to end the practice, particularly in the Minneapolis Police Department, of withholding information about an officer’s violations from the public.
Ostrow said better transparency in policing could include live streaming police body cameras to mental health workers, county and city attorneys or even an oversight body that could lead to spotting misconduct.