April 22, 2009

Contra Costa's DA won't prosecute certain misdemeanor crimes.Yes, that's bad, but so are cuts to child, elder abuse case workers and other services

The Mayor of Claycord at obtained a memo from Contra Costa County District Attorney Bob Kochly to police chiefs in which he lists the types of his office will no longer prosecute due to budget cuts in his office.

"Unfortunately, we have now reached a point where we cannot maintain the status quo, and I am faced with the reality of informing all of our law enforcement partners that we will definitely be doing “less with less” as a prosecution agency," Kochly writes. "With the budget cuts imposed on my office last month, we will be laying off six deputy district attorneys effective April 30th, and 11 more deputy district attorneys will have to be let go at the end of this calendar year. We can no longer continue to prosecute all crimes as we have in the past."

Most of the crimes he says his office will no longer review and file charges on, effective May 4, are misdemeanors. They include misdemeanor drug offenses, property crimes, simple assault or battery cases, and tresspassing and loitering cases. "With respect to these types of cases, we ask that they not even be submitted by your agency," Kochly tells the chiefs. "If they are submitted, they will be screened out by category by support staff and returned to your department without review by a deputy district attorney."

His office will continue to prosecute certain misdemeanors: DUI cases (which are usually misdemeanors), domestic violence and domestic violence restraining order violations, firearms weapons cases, and sex crimes (such as exposing oneself in public.)

On the felony side, the changes involve certain drug cases, specifically simple possession cases. These new policies apply only to offenses involving adults.

Finally, "for the time being, filing and prosecution policies for juvenile offenders remains status quo."

You can read the full memo at The Mayor of Claycord expresses confidence that "there's no doubt in my mind that our local police agencies will continue to work hard to keep us safe, and arrest criminals, even if their cases won't be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Other Contra Costa bloggers are outraged. Mister Writer says "It wasn't that great before. Now it will be insane." And he urges residents to swamp the Board of Supervisors with letters. The DUB C says "A crime wave is coming. ... Unfortunately we seem to be heading down an 'everyone for themselves' road in regards to public safety."

A while back, I questioned whether Kochly was grandstanding when he and a spokesman for the county prosecutors association said the budget cuts would mean the office wouldn't be able to prosecute DUIs. Prior to making this threat, the supervisors had been making cuts across the board and to all services, including to vital health, human and employment services. Back last May, the county cut $90 million from its budget. This past December, the county cut 200 jobs, including 14 elder abuse workers and 65 child welfare workers.

CBS5 reported: "Beginning in January social workers who investigate reports of elder abuse will be reduced from 14 to five and social workers who investigate reports of child abuse will be reduced from 154 to 110."

So, Kochly and his staff were making what turned out to be exaggerated threats about not prosecuting DUIs when we already knew that there would be far fewer social workers to check on reports that elderly people and kids are being abused.

Kochly's statements annoyed me because--hello--we're all facing very tough times. A lot of county workers are losing their jobs, and a lot of the most vulnerable in our county are being left even more vulnerable. It has not been a time for heads of departments to grandstand. It is time for our leaders to act like leaders and work together to find solutions.

In March, the supervisors made more cuts, but tried to give law enforcement, including Kochly's office and the Sheriff's Department, top priority. Instead of having to make $4.1 million in cuts, Kochly had to trim $1.9 million, laying off 18 deputy district attorneys instead of 33. The Sheriff's Department would need to lay off 56 deputies.

Bottom line, it all sucks. It's all terrible: That Kochly says his office can't prosecute certain misdemeanor crimes, that certain cases of elder and child abuse probably won't get investigated, that mental health services have been slashed, and that other vital services have been cut.

Could the county have done a better job managing all this? Could individual department heads, including Kochly, have found ways to manage their dollars better? I don't have those answers, but I'm sure there are people out there who have far more expertise on all this than I do and can weigh in.


Anonymous said...

i blame the tea baggers and other anti-tax folks.

Anonymous said...

Contra Costa County doesn't have the resources to prosecute drug possession, trespassing, burglary, petty theft, assault, and certain property crimes, but they can muster the resources to make me take half a day off of work to appear in court because I was driving while talking on my cell phone. This is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard. If I had been pulled over with less than a gram of meth, I would walk away with nothing, but since I was on my cellphone I have to pay $199. How does this make sense? In fact, once I finish posting this I am heading to Nordstrom's to shoplift some stuff to sell on Ebay to pay for my ticket. By the way, I was talking on my cell phone, but I wasn't driving like a jackass while I was doing it. When is Sacramento going to pass a law that makes putting on make-up while driving or eating with chopsticks (i really saw this) in the carpool lane illegal? Such a crock of shit.

sickofem said...

IMO, CCC has departments that are corrupt, including the pension association. Just how many junkets do they have to take to become "trained"?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what about that lady Gus the assessor gave a hotel room key to and told her that her job performance would be assessed there?

The County did an "investigation" that of course cleared him, but a JURY found in her favor... anyone know how much she got in total -

guess who gets to pay those legal bills? you got it - us homeowners!

Hanna said...

yeah, well IMO - at least Prop 1D will get rid of that First 5 total joke of an agency.

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom, you clearly don't understand what needed to happen in the DA's office. Why do you write about things that you really know nothing about?

Pascal said...

well 3:05PM - why don't you enlighten us on "what needed to happen" in the DA's office

Monica said...

To Hanna -

First 5...hhhmmmm... isn't that the place that has massive staff turnover? Can't seem to keep a Deputy Director? or a Director of Finance and Operations? or a Director of a First 5 Center?

I've wondered why that is - everytime I go on Craigslist looking at the job ads, I see a First 5 job opening.

Does anyone know why that is? My husband and I can't figure it out.

Why would these people be leaving a government job these days unless... unless maybe it is a "joke of an agency" as you put it.

Anonymous said...

Monica -

well, I thought maybe you were exaggerating, so I took you up on that claim about First 5 jobs on craiglist, and lo and behold, you are right:

Soccer Mom said...

Dear 3:05 p.m.
Yes, please enlighten me and others (if they are interested) on what is needed to happen at the DA's office.

To add to this post, I just wanted to say that in my liberal/leftist/socialist/communist/pinko way, I have a "holistic" view of public safety and crime prevention.

I don't want to take away from what law enforcement does to deal with crime, especially police officers and sheriff's deputies. I strongly believe that police officers should feel that they have proper resources, staffing, equipment and training to do the job they need to do, a job, as we learned recently in Oakland, that comes at great personal peril.

Also, to do their jobs right, and to feel good about what they do, both patrol officers and detectives need TIME. (At least that's the case with the ones I've gotten to know.) Patrol officers need to develop relationships with people on their beats, so they know what's REALLY going on on their beats, and so that they people they serve trust them. Detectives need time to think and put together the connections, and pursue those seemingly nowhere leads that often lead to somewhere very important.

I mentioned the cuts to child and elder abuse case workers. The thing is, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that kids who are abused in various ways wind up "at risk." Of becoming abusers themselves. Or turning to drugs or alcohol. Of becoming traumatized and mentally ill. Of not doing well in school, and of not being employable later in life, and of turning to crime. Becoming the victimizers themselves.

Cuts to mental health services: That can't be good either. Haven't talked to Warren Rupf specifically about this particular issue, but I have talked to other law enforcement officials in the Bay Area--sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, public defenders. I've also read plenty of studies and statistics about how our jails and prisons have become our nation's de facto mental hospitals. In the mental health/criminal justice world, a favorite fact to cite is that the largest mental hospital in the United States is--the Los Angeles County jail.

I know someone who served time in a county jail in a county somewhere in California. He told me that about HALF of the inmates were on some kind of psychotropic medication.

Oh, and he said that many had problems with basic literacy. This person, who is a good friend and who admits he made a serious mistake in his life, volunteered, during his incarceration, to tutor other inmates trying to earn their GEDs.

We could also go back to the Community Policing theories much touted in the 80s and 90s. How it was necessary for all agencies in a municipality to get involved in solving even those minor nuisance crimes in order to make people in general feel better and accept more "ownership" of their neighborhoods. How everyone in a community needs to get involved in fixing those broken windows on those vacant houses, and forcing owners to clean up their unkempt lots (a fire department/public works issue).

And, of course, parents need to take responsibility and create stable homes for kids--though unfortunately many don't.

Basically, I'm sorry that the DA's office had to lay off staff, and I'm sorry that the Sheriff's Department had to lay off deputies.

But, I believe that we and our leaders need to look at the big picture. Realistically, cops and prosecutors are not the only ones who are responsible for ensuring our public safety. Schools have an important role by educating kids. So do drug counselors, and social workers, and health workers, and public works employees, and employment development officers. The list goes on.

To just focus on how the prosecutors can't go after certain crimes, which is how the headlines have been playing this story, is to ignore the fact that the whole safety net is at risk right now, because of cuts to other vital services across the board. When you have no net, the risk of of all crime goes up.

All these different pieces need to come together--and work together. I know all the pieces don't work together as well as they could. And some programs, I know are wasteful and inefficient.

But, we're kind of in crisis/survival mode. People need to work together, and figure out what REALLY works and what doesn't. Get over protecting your own turf, and look at out you can support the overall goal of whatever it is you're trying to do.

For Bob Kochly and his office, that is preserving public safety. At least that is what I assume their mission is. Kochly has smart, talented people working for him. Okay, so the supervisors say he must cut $$$ and that means he needs to cut staff. Painful, I know. Anger provoking, yes.

But deal with it. We all have to deal with this kind of reality these days.

So, talk to other police chiefs, talk to your staff, talk to whoever else you need to talk to, and figure out how to uphold your mission as best as you can.

That's why we--or some of us--elected you.

Anonymous said...

Ching Chong Bing Bong.

Arl your crime are berong to us.

Anonymous said...

Your all idiots. First of all it is pretty simple. If you cut a work force by 20% they are going to do 20% less work. As far as the DA's office grand standing. They said if the bored cut 4.1 million dollars they could not do any misdemeanors. The bored then cut only 1.9 million and Kochley only stopped some misdemeanors. Look at the numbers. Eleven attorneys review twenty thousand misdemeanors a year and file eleven. If 18 attorneys are layed off who do you propose handle misdemeanor cases? Should we stop prosecuting homicides to cover misdemeanors. Most of you have no idea what even goes on at the DA's office.