Saraswati Singh is a prosecutor with the Ramsey County Attorney’s office. She said she is the most qualified candidate in the race because of her diversity of experiences in the legal system. But she also believes her personal experiences make her a uniquely good fit as the next Hennepin County Attorney.
Singh, 38, has lived in Minneapolis for over 10 years but grew up in New York City. A descendant of immigrants from India, she grew up listening to stories of her grandfather being greeted by “white only” signs over drinking fountains or witnessing her father suffer discrimination following 9/11 because of his skin color and hair. When she was a kid, her mother banished the use of water guns — the see-through kind that looks like a little pistol — because a Black boy in the neighborhood was shot by police who mistook the water gun for a real gun.
Singh believes that a path to public safety is racial equity — and vice versa. Take low-level drug cases. Singh said research shows that white people use drugs at a higher rate than Black people.
“But if you go to court in Hennepin County or any county in Minnesota you will see an overwhelming majority of the people charged with drug offenses are Black,” Singh said. She believes that low-level drug cases are not worth the time and that those resources should be used to target violent crime.
“This way, we are addressing the racial disparity piece and, at the same time, addressing public safety,” Singh said.
As a Ramsey County prosecutor, Singh handles serious cases like murder, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. Singh also recruits, trains, and provides mentorship at the Ramsey County Attorney’s office. She led diversity and inclusion initiatives in the office like an education plan, training, and discussions on race since the death of George Floyd.
“We talk about how a lot of the people protesting were talking to us,” Singh said.
Singh’s experience also includes time at the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis, Legal Aid, and as a staffer for two federal judges. In those positions, she’s said she’s worked on civil and criminal cases ranging from civil rights and veterans issues to access to education and Social Security disability benefits.
Singh, if elected, said that she would not prosecute abortion. An issue that is a priority for her is police accountability.
Singh worked on keeping police accountable at the state AG’s office, where she worked with police departments in more than 60 counties in Minnesota. In one case, Singh said she caught a police officer lying after she reviewed body camera footage.
Singh reported the fabrication to the police officer’s supervisor. When she checked in later, she discovered that the officer was promoted.
“Holding people accountable isn’t just prosecuting cases. It means that when you see behavior that is wrong, you take it seriously and the top person in management calls the other person in management, and it’s made clear that something needs to be done immediately,” Singh said.
She considers police accountability a public safety issue because when police aren’t held accountable, she said, public trust in the legal system erodes. After Floyd was murdered, Singh said she spoke with prospective witnesses who refused to testify in cases “because they felt [prosecutors] were part of the system and that we were like [Derek] Chauvin.”
Singh said she would notify police leadership if she finds that an officer is behaving inappropriately and will see that “consequences escalate if the behavior continues.” Singh would also assign a Hennepin County attorney to the Minneapolis Police Department to “make sure they are getting the right training on excessive force, where the law is, and what best practices are.”