Cunningham Honored by District Attorney

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 9, 2023

Former State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham was recently honored for his work to combat the scourge of human trafficking by the District Attorney, himself a warrior against what amounts to modern day slavery. 

District Attorney Dan Dow presented Cunningham with the “District Attorney Special Commendation Award” during a Jan. 26, Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force meeting.

“This special award was presented in recognition of Assemblyman Cunningham’s outstanding work in the California State Legislature from 2016 to 2022 to combat human trafficking through important new legislation,” Dow said in a news release. “This month has been designated [annually] as Human Trafficking Awareness Month by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.”

Dow commented, “It is my distinct pleasure to present Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham with the distinguished District Attorney Special Commendation Award for his distinguished work to combat human trafficking and support survivors of trafficking. Jordan’s tireless effort and significant success, in spite of the challenging political environment, bring great credit upon Jordan and upon the residents in San Luis Obispo County who he has valiantly served. He is very deserving of this recognition.”

Dist. 1 County Supervisor and board Chairman, John Peschong, was also on hand to award Cunningham a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the County Board of Supervisors

Cunningham had the distinction of being the only former Deputy District Attorney serving in the State Assembly during his tenure, and was able to provide “an important and practical perspective about the real impact of their proposals to his peers serving in the legislative body,” Dow said.

During his relatively short tenure, Cunningham was recognized as “Legislator of the Year” during his tenure in Sacramento by several organizations including the Federation of California Builders Exchange, the California District Attorneys Association, and the California Police Chief’s Association.

Cunningham, who had not yet term-limited out, chose to step away from the Assembly after his district was severely redrawn to exclude a large chunk of SLO County in favor of adding Monterey and Santa Cruz, both with heavy Democrat party majorities. Former Morro Bay City Councilwoman, Dawn Addis ran for and won what is now the 30th Assembly District and becoming the first Morro Bay elected to the State Assembly.

Among the bills that Assemblyman Cunningham authored are:

• AB 1735: Protective orders: human trafficking: pimping: pandering. Requires Judges to consider issuing a protective order in all cases in which a defendant has been convicted of human trafficking, pimping or pandering.

• AB 1868: Authorizes school districts to provide instruction, on the potential risks and consequences of creating and sharing sexually suggestive or explicit materials through cell phones, social networking sites, computer networks, or other digital media.

• AB 662: Crimes against minors. Changed the elements of the crime of enticing a female under the age of 18 into a house of prostitution to make the crime gender neutral and thereby recognize the crime is committed against boys and girls.

• AB 2009: Postsecondary education: training for drivers of commercial trucks: human trafficking awareness training. Require that human trafficking awareness training developed under the bill be incorporated into the curriculum of all community college programs that offer training for persons preparing for licensing and employment as commercial truck drivers.

• AB 1788: Sex trafficking: hotels: actual knowledge or reckless disregard: civil penalty. Creates civil penalties for hotels, for instances of human trafficking that specified employees knew or recklessly disregarded activity on hotel grounds constituting sex trafficking.

• AB 2408: Social media platform: child users: addiction. Makes social media platforms, such as Meta and Snapchat, civilly liable for negligently addicting child users by establishing a duty for a social media platform to not negligently addict child users by a) The use or sale of a child user’s personal data or; b) the development, design, implementation, or maintenance of a design, feature, or affordance. (This bill passed the Assembly; passed Senate Judiciary Committee, then died with no referral to the full Senate from Appropriations Committee.)

• AB 2130: Emergency medical services: training: human trafficking. Requires every emergency medical technician-paramedic (EMT-P), upon initial licensure and upon licensure renewal, to complete at least 20 minutes of training on issues relating to human trafficking.

Getting the D.A.’s Award is rare. “The District Attorney Special Commendation,” the news release said, “has only been awarded to two recipients since its inception. The award “is reserved to recognize distinguished service that demonstrates exceptional commitment to the safety of our community through advocacy and action that yields significant results.”

But Cunningham’s work against human trafficking could be for naught, after a new law went into effect that critics say will empower sex traffickers. 

Senate Bill 357, which was authored by Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener, and signed into law last July by Gov. Gavin Newsom, decriminalized laws against loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, which critics say will lead to more human trafficking. 

Critics claim that sex trafficking victims often find their way out from under their enslavers when they get arrested by police for loitering for prostitution. And while the law doesn’t exactly legalize prostitution, critics say it is the first step. Critics also claim the law will expose children to prostitution.

Also, business interests said repealing the law would allow prostitutes to loiter outside businesses and drive away customers. 

S.S. Wiener claimed his bill was aimed at protecting sex workers and trans people from being harassed by police. Loitering for prostitution was a misdemeanor. S.S. Wiener is a Democrat from San Francisco.

California is one of the worst states in the U.S. for human trafficking.

The first District Attorney Special Commendation Award was presented by D.A. Dow to San Luis Obispo Police Department Patrol Officer, Quenten Rouse, for “swift action during a routine traffic stop in October 2018 that freed a 14-year-old victim of sexual slavery, in keeping with the finest tradition of our local law enforcement. The trafficker Lucion Banks is now convicted and serving 15 years-to-life in prison.”

The second recipient was Jennifer Adams in June of 2019 on her retirement from RISE (now known as Lumina Alliance). “Jennifer had served as an outstanding partner in assisting survivors of intimate partner and gender-based violence in San Luis Obispo County for over 20 years. She has since returned to the same work when she was asked to become the chief executive officer for Lumina Alliance in 2021.”

You May Also Like…