BEND, OR -- Deschutes County’s District Attorney says increases in the county’s population, tourism and law enforcement led to more arrests and a rise in his office’s caseload, over the past few years. D.A. John Hummel announced Friday that the County Budget Committee agreed to a $420,000 increase to his annual budget. However, that's less than half of what he'd requested. In March, Hummel said he needed $1.1 million to bring on 12 new employees, or there were would be severe cuts to services.
Instead, Hummel says, the Budget Committee agreed to a third option, "They approved six additional positions, and based on that, I did not have to do the full slate of cuts that I'd proposed. Fortunately, I was able to do targeted cuts that will not impact public safety, will make our office more efficient, and I'm pleased with the resolution." He tells KBND News, "There will be two additional attorneys, which are very much needed; we're going to have two trial assistants, and we have one additional victims' assistant associate, and then we're going to have an office manager."
His office will cut services like lunchtime availability of the reception window and a monthly drunk driving victim impact panel. Victims who want to keep their addresses confidential will be referred directly to the Oregon Department of Justice, early disposition programs will expand and traffic judges and probation officers will start handling first and second offenses, rather than the D.A. prosecuting every charge.
"Prior to this decision, our analysis showed that my office was having difficulty holding offenders accountable in the most serious cases, and making sure victims are whole," Hummel says, "We're going to be more safe, because my staff is going to have the resources necessary to help victims, and hold offenders accountable, and also to exonerate the innocent." He adds, "This is a good result for the residents and visitors to Deschutes County because too many times, guilty people were acquitted, and too many times, victims didn't receive restitution, or didn't receive notification of their court date." Hummel says some criminals weren't pursued because there was no one to do the follow up, "If you're innocent, you want a fully staffed D.A.'s office, because we're going to be better able to determine you're innocent, if you're guilty, you don't want a fully staffed office, because previously, you've been able to occasionally get off, and that's not going to happen any more, so I'm pleased with this result."