Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
December 9, 2010
Susan Kang Schroeder
OCDA TONY RACKAUCKAS ANNOUNCES NEW POLICY TO PUBLISH THE OFFICE’S FINDING OF FACTS AND LEGAL CONCLUSIONS IN OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS AND CUSTODIAL DEATHS
SANTA ANA – Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas made the following statement today:
Starting today, I am changing the Office’s policy and procedure by publicly providing the factual findings and legal conclusion after conducting our officer-involved shooting and custodial death investigations.
Our decision to change our policy began when Chief John Welter of the Anaheim Police Department came to me requesting the OCDA include factual findings and more information in our letter to police departments concluding the Office’s investigation of officer-involved shooting and custodial death cases. With the buy-in from all police chiefs and the Orange County Sheriff, we have been working together to come up with a protocol which balances the public’s right to know the facts behind the discharge of police officers’ weapons, facts behind deaths of persons under police custody, and police officers’ legal rights and safety concerns.
The OCDA’s procedure when conducting investigations and arriving at the legal conclusion will remain the same. The OCDA Bureau’s Special Assignments Unit (OCDASAU) responds within minutes to the scene and investigates a majority of all officer- involved shootings and custodial deaths that occur in Orange County. OCDASAU is responsible for investigating officer-involved shootings within Orange County when someone has been killed or injured by police gunfire and when someone dies under police custody.
An OCDASAU Investigator is assigned as case agent and supported by other Investigators from the Unit and other units. There are six full-time Investigators assigned to OCDASAU. There are 25 additional OCDA Investigators assigned to other units trained to assist when needed. On average, eight investigators respond to the incident within an hour of being called and perform a variety of investigative functions including interviewing witnesses, canvassing neighborhoods, processing crime scenes, collecting evidence, and processing vehicles. OCDASAU audio record all interviews and physical evidence is processed by the Orange County Crime Lab.
Following OCDASAU’s conclusion of an investigation, the file is turned over to a deputy district attorney for legal review. A veteran deputy district attorney of the Homicide or Gang Unit reviews the case for criminal filing in fatal officer-involved shootings and custodial deaths. A veteran deputy district attorney of the Special Prosecutions Unit reviews non-fatal officer-involved shooting investigations for criminal filing. Throughout this process, consultation between the reviewing prosecutor and his or her supervisor occurs, and an assistant district attorney will review their legal conclusion and the resulting memo. Often, the case may be reviewed by multiple veteran prosecutors including the senior assistant district attorneys, Chief of Staff, and me. The case may be sent back for further investigation if necessary.