The Mayor of Claycord at Claycord.com 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 Claycord.com. 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.