County Prosecutor Reveals the Impact of Racism on Her Career
Steve Adubato sits down with Camelia M. Valdes, Esq., Passaic County Prosecutor, to discuss how racism and discrimination impacted her path to success, and President Trump’s connection to law and order in New Jersey.
"This is State of Affairs. I'm Steve Adubato. Coming to you from beautiful Newark, New Jersey, NJTV Studios. Camelia Valdes is a prosecutor in Passaic County. Born and raised where? Born in the Bronx. Raised in Newark. See that? I always like to say, "you're from Newark." I'm from Newark. But I was born in the Bronx. Just checking. Okay. I gotta tell you. You and I have had so many conversations off air, on air? Yes. About a whole range of issues. Right before we got on the air, I said, "gun violence, gang violence in your county and also in the state." Are they the same thing? Well no. Not if you look at the numbers. If you look at our numbers, our homicide numbers tend to stay within 20 to 22 or so a year. Our shootings, however, which to me is a greater indicator of the violence problem are always higher. And that's really the number that we look at. Because if you have a victim that survived, it could be that St. Joe's did the awesome job that it always does. We're talking about St. Joseph's Healthcare? ...Hospital. St. Joe's Hospital in Paterson. Let me ask you this. People connect Passaic County. "That's Paterson." It's more than that? It's more than that. It's Wayne, it's Clifton, it's our suburban area, it's our rural areas. It's Passaic City? It's Passaic City. It's such a diverse county. So many things going on in cities, suburbs, rural areas. We see it all. It's interesting. People use the word prosecutor, they don't know exactly what it means. Mm hmm. To your friends and family, how do you describe the job? I talk to them about it in the context of service. Public service. Because prosecutors, good prosecutors, are not just looking to put people in jail. They're looking to remedy problems. They're looking to serve. They're looking to be receptive and responsive to what's happening with communities. So prosecutors are a jack-of-all-trades. We're trying to keep people safe. That's the bottom line. You know, it's interesting. You've got an interesting... I love your sense of humor. Particularly when you're dealing with such issues. Yes. Challenging issues. You talked about how you came into this job? Mm hmm. You know. I saw a piece of video, I don't know, maybe you were speaking somewhere and you sent me something. "Maybe I caught it somewhere in social?" [laughter] "But I don't know how I saw it." Uh huh. But you were talking to some folks about how you came into this job. Describe the circumstances around that. And why that's so interesting. So it's interesting because I was minding my business at the US Attorney's Office, and the opportunity to become Passaic County..."