Although Harris did call herself California's 'top cop,' she has been criticized for being tough on crime and soft on police misconduct.
Yet, over the years, she has labeled herself both a 'top cop' and a 'progressive prosecutor.' In her 2009 book, 'Smart on Crime,' she wrote that “if we take a show of hands of those who would like to see more police officers on the street, mine would shoot up,” adding that “virtually all law-abiding citizens feel safer when they see officers walking a beat.”
When it comes to prosecutorial record, Harris has faced questions over her record on criminal justice issues — a record that’s led some critics to describe her not as a progressive reformer but as a reminder of a “tough on crime” era going back to the 1990s and 2000s. She started out working at prosecutors’ offices in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then became San Francisco’s district attorney, the top prosecutor for the city, in 2004. She had argued that her views align with the new progressive movement. But her record in California, where she was a prosecutor, district attorney, and state attorney general before representing the state in the U.S. Senate, has come under harsh scrutiny and debate since she launched her presidential campaign in 2019.
As she became more nationally visible, Harris was less known as a progressive prosecutor, as she had been earlier in her career, and more a reform-lite or even anti-reform attorney general. Now critics have labeled her a “cop” — a sellout for a broken criminal justice system.
Harris argues that she’s fought to reverse incarceration, scale back the war on drugs, and address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. But as she has become a prominent political figure — she’s had several viral moments questioning President Donald Trump’s nominees in the Senate — those more familiar with her criminal justice record, particularly on the left, have voiced their skepticism.