DA's office turnover not likely to help with violent crime

JANIFEST/iStock/Getty Images Plus

While the police arrest criminals, it’s up to the district attorney’s office in various places to prosecute them. This prosecution becomes more and more important as we see people put right back on the streets after just about any crime. Especially in cities like Portland.

It seems the only way to keep them off the streets is to convict them of their crimes and throw them in prison.

However, it seems that in Portland, there are challenges to even that.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office says it is facing an “unprecedented” turnover of prosecutors as gun violence in Portland is on pace to eclipse last year’s historic record.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden said Thursday that 12 to 15 deputy district attorneys have left the DA’s office in the past year.

“And that’s just unprecedented,” Snowden said while speaking at a press conference this morning held by Mayor Ted Wheeler and local law enforcement officials.

“Unfortunately, I can say that we’re becoming overwhelmed,” Snowden said. “Our criminal justice system is simply in crisis….We have reallocated the resources that we have to focus on gun violence. and I can say that, unfortunately, just this week alone, we initiated the prosecution in three separate cases where different people had been shot in the face.”

Snowden said gun violence-related cases are her office’s “No. 1 priority,” but that backlogs and large caseloads are fueling employee burnout. Meanwhile, gun violence cases in Portland are trending upward, according to law enforcement officials.

Burnout can be a serious problem for anyone, particularly for prosecutors who seem the worst scum on the planet.

Plus, let’s be real here. These are lawyers who aren’t pulling in what many of their law school classmates are by practicing in the private sector. If you can’t acknowledge that may play a role, you’re just not being honest.

I mean, picture it. You’re an attorney who is busting your butt, but you have more and more prosecutions dropped on your desk. You’re taxpayer-funded, so hiring new lawyers isn’t just a stroke of the pen kind of thing, so you’re getting overworked.

Then you go and get a drink with a buddy from law school who pulls up in his Ferrari and he tells you his firm has an opening.

What do you think is going to happen?

However, when it comes to crime, this isn’t going to help. Without prosecutions taking place, criminals are free to do whatever they want without really any fear of repercussions. They can keep robbing, shooting, or what have you because they’re not in prison where they belong.

And I don’t have an answer for the problems in the DA’s office. “Hire more prosecutors” is easy to say, but as I said, they’re taxpayer-funded and probably can’t just decide to do that on a whim. They’d need a bigger budget and they’d need public officials to approve it, which can be difficult at the best of times.

Considering the hate directed at the criminal justice system in Portland, this ain’t the best of times.