Since Deputy District Attorneys (DDAs) interact with violent criminals on a daily basis, there is potentially some element of danger in the job. After all, that is why courtrooms have armed bailiffs.
However, recent events have seen the DDAs affected directly by the rise in crime, both in the courthouse and on the way to the courthouse. In recent months, a number of DDAs have been attacked in court: a defendant punched a DDA in open court, a DDA had feces and urine thrown on them during a preliminary hearing; shots were fired at the Compton Courthouse; and, a Deputy DA was stuck by a chair thrown by a defendant.
In addition, the streets that DDAs have to traverse to get to the courthouse have become more dangerous. A DDA was stalked by a juror who discovered her home address. There are also ongoing issues at the downtown homeless encampment which included a head deputy witnessing a knife assault, another DDA crossing the street only seconds before a homeless man fired several shots and chased a motorcyclist, not to mention the recent murder by a homeless person next to a parking lot used by DA employees.
We strongly urge all of our members to stay away from the homeless camps in the Civic Center homeless area due to the number of assaults and we remind you to exercise caution while going to and from your vehicles.
We know that the danger to DDA’s is not confined to the workplace. The danger that a vengeful criminal may lash out at the prosecutor on his case, be it shortly after the conviction or years later, is always in the back of our minds-and for good reason. In 2013, a Texas District Attorney and his wife were killed at their home, and the prosecutor on the case was shot dead outside the courthouse-they were all murdered by a criminal convicted the previous year. Here in California, a former Marin County DDA was shot and killed at his law office in 1986 by a man he had convicted of arson 30 years before.
As an Association, we are taking the necessary steps to protect DDAs. We have informed the Bureau of Investigation about the attacks and incidents and have asked them to issue a warning bulletin. We have had meetings with District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office to discuss the recent events and ways to increase and improve security for DDAs. In addition, we ask the membership to inform the Association of any threats or attacks on them, so that we can continue to ensure that the Administration and Sheriff’s Department are aware and have knowledge of all incidents and respond appropriately.
In the interim, you can take some simple steps on your own to enhance your safety. These range from not answering your door without looking through a peephole or knowing who is on the other side, to taking different routes to and from work each day, to maintaining a heightened sense of awareness in and around the courthouse. It’s a sad reality that everyone who enters a courthouse these days can pose as a potential threat.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s intranet contains a safety manual and a General Office Memorandum (GOM) on safety. You can find it in the “About Us” tab.
In addition, there are two good articles, Taking Precautions: 101 Personal Safety Tips for Judges and Court Staff and Court Security that have a host of helpful safety and security tips; we urge you to read them thoroughly. Next week, we will let provide you with information on how to better protect your privacy.
If you have any ongoing concerns about courthouse safety, please contact an ADDA board member. A complete listing of board members and our emails can be found at www.laadda.com.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.