Soft-on-Crime DAs…

…and citizen’s arrest. I was…triggered, you might say…by an article describing a Connecticut neighborhood that has set up an evolution of the old Neighborhood Watch or New York City’s Guardian Angels groups. The good folks in the neighborhood have set up a “Self Defense Brigade,” a group 40-ish legally armed citizen volunteers, all living in the neighborhood, who do carry and who actively patrol their neighborhood or watch video feeds from drones that the residents have agreed to. Unsurprisingly, crime is way down in their neighborhood, from the Self Defense Brigade’s deterrent factor.

But what if there’s a need for an arrest? What if the brigade doesn’t only see evidence of a crime done, but see a criminal in the act? The cops, when called, will come fairly quickly (I don’t know the urban area’s defund the cops movement, or the level of staffing of the local police department), but in the meantime, the group would need either to track and maintain contact with the perp until the cops arrive, or actively detain the perp until the cops arrive.

That last amounts to a citizen’s arrest, which still is a thing in our nation, even if it has fallen into disuse.

Cop arrest or citizen’s arrest, though, to have useful effect there needs to be a couple of follow-on steps: prosecution and, if the case can be made—the neighborhood group has the evidence—conviction, followed by punishment serious enough to match the crime for which the neighborhood group made its move.

That brings me to the title of my post: DAs who are soft on crime, who have decided they’re not going to prosecute certain classes of crime that they’ve deemed not worth the trouble or not violent enough, without any regard for the damage done the victims of these crimes.

Such DAs, I claim, are not exercising prosecutorial discretion, even though those DAs claim they are. Prosecutorial discretion is a matter of assessing the specifics of a particular case and deciding to prosecute the instance at a lower level than initially charged or to not prosecute the instance at all. This must be done, further, on a case-by-case basis, treating each on de novo. Deciding a priori not to prosecute whole categories of crime has nothing to do with discretion; the DAs doing this are aiding and abetting the class of criminals they’re refusing to prosecute. This would seem to put them beyond the reach of any level of immunity, qualified or blanket, from civil suit, and the criminality of their action leaves them open, or should leave them open, to criminal prosecution.

Which brings me to the opening of my lede: citizen’s arrest. When the neighborhood group—Self Defense Brigade, or Guardian Angels, or an ad hoc collection of individuals—arrests or detains for police arrest a criminal, and the local prosecutor decides that the crime alleged falls within his predetermined class of no prosecution crimes, then it’s time for the neighborhood group, or others aligned with the group, to execute a citizen’s arrest of the DA and force his prosecution. And subsequently, if necessary, move politically against the judge who tosses the case rather than allowing it to go to trial and get him removed from the bench (this step will take some time, since it may involve electing a legislature willing to impeach and convict the judge, but it would be time well spent. If local judges are elected, the time could be as nearby as the next election cycle.)

Especially in cases stemming from citizen’s arrests, the matter should go to a jury, a collection of citizens drawn from the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.

There’s one more factor in play here, and that is the DA’s oath of office. With his blanket decision to excuse whole classes of crime, he’s clearly violating his oath. There could be, if a bit more tenuous than the direct criminal prosecution, a case for criminal perjury to be made. At the very least, though, his oath violation is an impeachable event, and aside from that, if he’s an elected official, his removal could be as nearby as the next election cycle.

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