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Hummel plans cuts after getting half of added staff request


(Update: Adding video, comments)

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, who vowed major program cuts if he didn’t get 11 new positions sought for his overwhelmed office, laid out Friday the services that will be trimmed after the county’s budget committee only provided six of his requested additions.

Hummel had requested about $1.3 million in added funding for the DA’s office and Victims’ Assistance Program, which totaled $8.1 million for fiscal year 2019. Instead, he said, the approved budget for his office and that program total about $8.63 million, an increase of about $442,000.

Hummel had said earlier this year that without additional funding, his office would no longer pursue prosecutions in some lesser offenses, such as misdemeanor driving while suspended, and all Class B and C misdemeanors except domestic violence, child sex abuse and crimes against police.

Several services also would have been stopped, such as victim assistance to people seeking restraining orders against their abusers.

Now, he said, his office will no longer prosecute misdemeanor driving while suspended cases for cases involving drivers with no more than one prior conviction for the crime.

He also said his office will revise eligibility so more relatively minor misdemeanor offenses by people with little or no criminal history are resolved through an early disposition program.

The office also will work with the Parole and Probation Department to resolve more alleged probation violations without prosecution by Hummel’s office.

When he went public with his request in March, after a staffing study was conducted, Hummel had said he was seeking 12 added positions to meet the demands on his office.

Hummel said Friday that figure was trimmed by one, to 11 new staff, after the office identified a grant opportunity for one of the requested victims’ advocate positions.

“We’re applying for that now, and I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll be approved,” he said. ” I’m confident enough that I removed that position from my ask.”

As for why getting only about one-third of the requested added budget amount still meant filling six of the 11 sought positions, Hummel explained, “I had asked for some things that were not staffing-related that they did not approve. Also, they did not approve all of the most expensive positions (two trial assistants are less expensive than attorneys, for example).”

None of the added money will come from new taxes, just reallocation of existing funds.

“The public wants us to be excellent, and they deserve us to be excellent in prosecutions of domestic violence and murder, and rape,” Hummel said. “We were struggling to remain excellent in those cases.

“No longer could I accept that guilty people were going to be set free on a sexual abuse case, or a domestic violence case,” he said. “We need to be on the top of our game on those cases — and to do so, we need to take some of the lower cases off of our plate.”

Here’s Hummel’s full statement:


Six months ago Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel commissioned a staffing and workload analysis to determine how to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the DA’s office. That analysis found that the quality of service in the most-serious cases suffered because an increasing number of arrests had overloaded prosecutors’ caseloads. Hummel and his team have been unable to reliably hold the most dangerous people in our community accountable and to adequately provide services to victims of crime.

The funding levels provided by the county were insufficient for the staffing level needed in a rapidly growing county with a high volume of visitors. This situation was untenable. The report presented three paths forward to the County Budget Committee:

Fund 11 new full-time employees who would enable the DA’s office to provide the volume and quality of service that residents deserve and expect. The analysis identified existing county revenue that could pay for the new positions without increasing taxes. Fund some of the new positions with the understanding that the DA’s office would prioritize limited time and resources to pursue serious cases over some lower-level cases and services. Provide no additional funding with the expectation that providing exemplary public service in the most critical criminal cases would preclude prosecution of many low-level cases and would significantly limit other services provided by the DA’s office.

Hummel shared this information with the budget committee, which includes the county’s three elected commissioners. The budget committee chose the second option: Partial funding for new positions (six) with fewer prosecutions and services in non-critical cases.

Hummel therefore will prioritize limited resources to maximize public safety. The office will focus on prosecuting the most-serious crimes in our community such as homicides, sexual assaults, and crimes of domestic violence. That will leave insufficient remaining resources for some other services. Impacted programs include:

Misdemeanor Driving While Suspended: The DA’s Office historically has prosecuted all crimes committed in the county. This differs from many counties in which municipal courts handle relatively minor misdemeanor offenses allowing the district attorney to handle and focus on the prosecution of the most‑serious offenses. Deschutes County cities have chosen not to prosecute criminal matters in their municipal courts. In order to allow prosecutors and support staff to address serious crimes the DA’s office will no longer prosecute misdemeanor driving while suspended crimes for suspects with zero or one prior convictions for this crime. Law enforcement will cite suspects with zero or one prior conviction into traffic court where the matter will be handled like other traffic offenses such as speeding tickets. For offenders with two or more prior convictions the DA’s office will prosecute as it always has. (In 2018 the DA’s office prosecuted over 500 driving while suspended cases) Early Disposition Program: The district attorney resolves relatively minor misdemeanor offenses committed by people with relatively minor criminal histories via an early disposition program. This program provides suspects an opportunity to accept early responsibility for their actions, make amends by performing community service, and in exchange, avoid a conviction. Crimes that are currently eligible for this program are theft, trespass, and littering. The DA’s office will amend the eligibility criteria so that more cases are resolved via this program rather than via full prosecution. Probation Violations: A large number of cases handled by the district attorney involve litigation related to allegations that a person on probation violated the terms of the probation judgment. The district attorney will work with the probation department to develop guidelines for probation officers to resolve more alleged probation violations rather than sending them to DA’s office for prosecution. (In 2018 the DA’s office prosecuted over 700 probation violation cases). Victim Address Confidentiality Program: Victims of certain crimes are eligible to make their residential addresses confidential. The program is designed to prevent offenders from using state and local government records to locate their victims. The program is administered by the Crime Victims and Survivors Services Division of the Oregon Department of Justice. The DA’s office’s Victims’ Assistance Program assists victims of crime to complete the paperwork necessary to apply for this program. Going forward, the office will refer victims of crime directly to the Survivors Services Division to complete the paperwork. Victim Impact Panel: Once a month the DA’s office conducts a victim impact panel. People convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants and people who entered a diversion program on this charge, hear from law enforcement, the district attorney, and people who were impacted by impaired drivers about the dangers of impaired driving. Deschutes County has been one of only 10 DA’s offices in the state that operate a victim impact panel. The program will end after the August session. Public Reception Window: The public reception window in the DA’s office will close noon to 1 p.m. This will allow the staff catch up on the backlog of administrative tasks that results from shifting staff around to cover the lunch hour at the window.

Statement from District Attorney Hummel:

“The budget committee allocates money to county departments and elected officials. Elected officials and department heads then decide how best to prioritize the allocated money to serve residents. In order to focus on keeping us safe from violent offenders, my office will focus on the most-critical cases. It’s no longer acceptable to do everything at a mediocre level. To excel in the prosecution of serious cases some other less-essential services will be limited. I have targeted staffing and resources to have the least impact possible on public safety. I thank the budget committee for meeting me halfway in this process and for all the members of the team in the district attorney’s office who have endured oppressive workloads for too long. The time for excellence in our office has arrived and our community will be safer as a result. “

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