“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
So, actually, let’s set a few things straight right at the beginning. Cops and deputy district attorneys don’t actually get along all that well–at least not in Los Angeles County. The cops spend all this time and energy putting their lives on the line to chase down gangsters and and criminals and wife-beaters, etc. And like two-thirds of the time, the DDAs reject the cases because they aren’t 100% total slam dunks, or they offer ridiculous plea deals, etc. (In my career, I’ve made many hundreds of arrests…and maybe two have gone to trial?) Or they don’t have their cases in order and they subpoena people to court on their day off or vacation unnecessarily. So, there’s a ton of frustration from the cops toward the DDAs.
And on the flip side, the DDAs are frustrated with the cops because the cops maybe wrote a sloppy report or didn’t do something that would have made the case tighter, or didn’t know their case law, or whatever. Or they really needed to be in court but blew it off (because the last 20 subpoenas were a waste of time).
All of this sucks–but it goes to show that the cops and DA’s aren’t in each other’s pockets. They don’t even really like each other.
AT THE SHERIFF-DISTRICT ATTORNEY LEVEL, however, they’re–as a blog focused on corruption within Jim McDonnell’s Sheriff’s Department’s noted this week–totally (but not literally) in bed. They endorse each other, throw fundraisers for each other, and bring big donors to each other’s events. But as much as cops want the DDAs to be on their side, it’s a problem when the community begins to believe the relationship between the Sheriff and the DA is corrupted. As it now appears to be in Los Angeles.
It’s a problem because each agency investigates the other. When a deputy involved shooting occurs, the public is reassured by knowing impartial investigations are occurring. That helps the cops. And they probably are occurring. But, when the District Attorney is fundraising for the Sheriff…does it look good? Does the likely public reaction to that help us? We don’t think so.
After all, it was wrong when Attorney General Eric Holder called himself Barack Obama’s “wingman”. It’s wrong when Jackie Lacey throws fundraisers for the sheriff.
Justice can’t be blind when she’s got a fat stack of bennies in her hand.
As the Los Angeles Times editorial board recently observed, “The justice system depends on public trust. The perception that district attorneys are too close to police to properly proceed against officers may be just as dangerous whether or not it is true.”