Cohort Reflections


Immersion in the Law

Waheed Akberzie

Clinical Project Manager - SetPoint Medical

I know nothing about the law and didn't study to become a lawyer. So why was I in the Ventura County District Attorney's Office?
As an incoming member of Ventura County Leadership Academy 's Cohort XXIX, we're required to complete an immersion activity that challenges myself and is in an area that I know little to nothing about.

I decided that understanding our legal system was an area of interest for me, something I had a gap of knowledge in, and that I could learn from the team that manages part of the justice system for our county.

The Ventura County District Attorney's office seemed to me to be focused on innovation and aiming to utilize the best tools of the future to help us today.  The transparency to let a stranger through their doors, and share their time with them, is also unprecedented in many countries.

I felt the sense of the weight of the office, the trust of the public, and the seriousness and dedication the team take to ensure justice prevails in the end. Increased public awareness, and press conferences allow the office to ensure they were always speaking to the public about any issues of note instead of working in seclusion as is the normal practice in many areas.

Over at the Bureau of Investigations, they work as the backbone of the prosecutors to ensure every case is ready to go to trial and work to affirm the innocence of defendants when that evidence is found. They use new technology to look into cold cases, hoping to shed light on past crimes, like the Golden State killer case. To work as a DA investigator you are often a very seasoned detective, and cases become vetted by our best and brightest. The work that they do weighs heavily on them, I know I couldn't do it, but without them, where would victims go?

Finally we have the wonderful Family Justice Center which is a one stop shop of Victim Advocates from the DA's office, healthcare professionals, and county personnel all dedicated to providing services to victims, in a warm and inviting space. Consider donating new toys to them for child victims.

Thanks to Cohort member Dhruv Pandya, and to Terri Anderson for helping initiate all the meetings. Also to the generosity of all the leadership of the District Attorney's office, D.A Erik Nasarenko, Chief assistant DA Lisa Lyytikainen, Executive Assistants Christine Mitchell and Cindy Klante, Supervising Deputy Attorney Erin Meister, DA Bureau of Investigations Commander Chris Borkovec, DA Bureau Investigators Paul Walsh and Corina Wondoloski, Victim Services leaders Supervisor Brenda Marquez and Sandra Avila, and the wonderful team at the Family Justice Center Rachel Watkins, Dina Zuhric, and their amazing nurse Jess Flanagan (soon NP!).

Thank you wholeheartedly to all of the above. I feel I hit an inflection point and thanks to the above people, my perspectives have broadened and future path has changed forever.

Finally special thanks to Pattie Braga and VCLA, without which, none of this would have happened.

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