John Flynn officially became Erie County's new District Attorney Friday morning, taking his oath of office in front of a large audience of family, friends, lawyers and elected officials spanning the political spectrum.
Flynn was elected in November to replace Acting D.A. Michael Flaherty, a man Flynn defeated in the Democratic Primary. The new D.A. was, along the campaign trail, critical of the previous administration including the leadership of Flaherty and Frank Sedita, the man Flaherty replaced when the latter gained a seat on the State Supreme Court. At his ceremony, Flynn praised both men and apologized for any campaign comments that "crossed the line."
But he also spoke of an office that he hinted will have a different culture.
"The past D.A.'s who have served in that office have served with honor and distinction and I hope to follow in those footsteps. But, I'm probably going to be a different D.A.," Flynn said.
He vowed to be more "proactive," and do the additional duties that the law allows in order to perform in a proactive way. He also wishes to allow people committing lesser, non-violent offenses a chance to straighten their lives, for their good and the good of their families.
"I believe that everyone deserves a second chance," he said. "I believe in my heart you can do two things. You can put away the bad guys. You can clean the streets of the criminals who prey on our citizens each and every day and put them away for the rest of their life. But at the same time, you can give people a second chance."
He pointed to studies that suggest children whose fathers are incarcerated are four times more likely to have contact with the child welfare system.
"We've lost generations because of the system of a revolving door of people who are just coming into jail and coming out of jail," Flynn said. "And when you're in jail and you leave behind children, that child grows up without a parent. And that child now tends to get into the criminal justice system. And it perpetuates. We have to stop that somehow."
Flynn did not speak to reporters immediately after the ceremony, but after spending some time greeting guests in the hall of the courthouse, spoke to members of the media who remained. He suggested he has no plans to make immediate changes but will instead review individuals in the office. He does intend to ensure the Public Integrity Unit remains fully staffed while making his Narcotics Bureau a fully standalone unit.