By MICHAEL RAMOS, San Bernardino County District Attorney
Every hour of every day law enforcement officers in San Bernardino County put their personal safety at risk to protect our communities. In 2012, in our county alone, over 2100 peace officers were assaulted, injured, threatened, or interfered with in the performance of their duties. Of these crimes, over 600 were felonies involving physical violence against an officer, use of a weapon on an officer, or threats to kill or injure an officer.
In the past three years over 6,000 peace officers in San Bernardino County have been the victims of crimes committed against them simply because they were performing their duty protecting us. Under AB 109 Criminal Justice Realignment this number is likely to increase because more dangerous criminals are being released back into our communities or housed in our local jails than ever before.
Criminals who assault peace officers represent a threat not only to the officer, but also to the safety of the entire community, and to the foundations of our criminal justice system. However, the culture of the criminal justice system has at times failed to treat law enforcement officer victims with the consideration and attention they deserve.
A study by the Violence Against Law Enforcement Officer Research Center (VALOR) revealed several problems common to criminal justice systems including an attitude by some that an officer being assaulted or abused is “just part of the job,” felony crimes against peace officers being issued as misdemeanors, crimes against peace officers being the first charges to be dropped in plea bargaining, cases being settled without the officer’s knowledge or input, and peace officer victims not receiving the same victim services as civilian victims.
As District Attorney I have a responsibility to change this culture in our criminal justice system and ensure that we are doing everything possible to deter, prosecute, and punish those who attack, threaten, or interfere with our law enforcement officers. I am proud to announce the creation of the Crimes Against Peace Officers (CAPO) Prosecution Unit to help us accomplish these goals.