Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas believes that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) has a duty to keep its clients, the People, informed regarding public safety. The Public Affairs Unit (PAU) serves the community by providing media and the public with critical and accurate information regarding public safety, significant cases, and the criminal justice system.
Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder provides legal and policy advice to the District Attorney, founded and co-heads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit, and has other case-related responsibilities. Under the supervision of the Chief of Staff, the Spokesperson and two assistants aid the OCDA in investigations and trial preparations, formulate strategies, provide analysis, and develop policies.
The PAU contributes to public safety by notifying the community about the imminent release of violent sex offenders from prison and publicizing parole oppositions. Knowing that victims of sexual assault are commonly reluctant to report crimes against them, the PAU has successfully encouraged numerous victims and witnesses to come forward by educating the public about pending cases and empowering victims. The result of new victims coming forward has strengthened evidence and increased penalties in cases.
The Unit supports transparency and promotes public confidence in law enforcement by reviewing, editing, and disseminating reports on officer-involved shootings, custodial death investigations, and legal analysis.
Due to the ethical duties and confidentiality requirements of the Office, the PAU provides the OCDA with training on Constitutional and statutory laws, Rules of Professional Responsibility, and Office policies. A 24-page policy manual written and maintained by the PAU is a resource on applicable laws and policies for the OCDA and other prosecutorial agencies.
The PAU continues to innovate to keep the OCDA's methods of communication up to date. In the past 16 years, the OCDA has increased the number of news releases from approximately 30 to over 500 per year. With the emergence of social media and smart-phones, the OCDA utilizes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and an Instagram, to keep in touch with the public and media.
The PAU monitors local, national, and international press on a daily basis. The Unit deals with mainstream and ethnic media inquiries including Hispanic, Korean, and Vietnamese media. Press releases, on-camera interviews, and information may be available in four languages.
The PAU writes, edits, and maintains the content of the OCDA's website including Cases in the News, news releases, the e-notifier, speeches, Sex Purchasers, and Most Wanted. The Unit redesigned and launched the OCDA's new website in October 2014 to increase functionality and make it easier for public use and navigation. Cases in the News, a highly-effective tool in keeping the public and media informed about ongoing cases, is a 155-page document with information on almost 230 cases.
The PAU writes, edits and coordinates speeches, facilitates communications between the Office and the public, and advises the District Attorney and OCDA staff concerning public appearances.