Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Doing Less With Less

You've got to admire Contra Costa County District Attorney Robert Kochly for his courage to speak truth to foolish politicians on the county's board of supervisors. Reacting to a $1.9 million cut to his department's budget, the DA naturally ordered that police departments stop sending minor cases to his office for prosecution. The budget cut has forced the DA to lay off prosecutors from a department that was already understaffed. Tough times for everyone, I guess.

For Kochly, it was a matter of simple math. There simply is no way to prosecute every petty crime, drug transaction and traffic violation with a reduced staff. At least not without seriously compromising the DA's ability to properly prosecute serious felons such as murderers and rapists.

Some supes, though, appear never to have considered what a budget cut would entail. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Bonilla complained that, "Our expectation was that our elected district attorney would step up in his role, rather than say, 'Don't submit these crimes.' " As if Kochly and his remaining prosecutors could somehow make up the 25 percent staffing shortfall if only they'd get more creative, or work harder. Unfortunately, there is no creative way around the harsh realities of the 24-hour day and human prosecutors' need for daily sleep.

As I mentioned here before, in this time of budget shortfalls, it is time to expect less from our government.



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