Budget cuts stir District Attorneys

Wednesday, March 12th 2008, 8:07 pm

By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

New figures are reported concerning the Oklahoma County District attorney's office. Cuts may be steeper than previously thought.

The budget shortfall stretches beyond Oklahoma County to affecting DA's across the state who say the lack of funds would drastically effect how crimes are prosecuted.

Those DA's believes it's now reaching crisis levels. Sixteen DAs came to the Capital to drive home the point that a budget shortfall would cripple crime fighting efforts statewide.

"We're going to lose control on the foothold we have gained on violent criminals in our state at this time," Oklahoma County District Attorney, David Prater said.

Up the turnpike, the situation is just as dire according to Tulsa County DA, Tim Harris.

"We've had Band-Aids placed on a bleed that we need a tourniquet," Harris said.

The steepest cuts come from the federal level. According to the District Attorney's Council, 100 percent of funding from the anti-gang initiative would be eliminated for this 08-09 fiscal year, along with three full-time positions. The Justice Assistance Grant would be slashed by 67 percent, in addition to 58 investigators. Twenty-two would remain. Project Safe Neighborhood Program would go away.

"Those three positions, if I don't get alternative funding, would be walking out the door because those federal grants pay for those salary and benefits," Tulsa County District Attorney, Tim Harris said.

Representative Richard Morrisette says these numbers have gone ignored by the federal government and local politicians.

"It's like three blind mice; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," Rep. Richard Morrisette (D) Oklahoma City said. "It's like nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody's walking around eggshells. The first business of government is to protect our people from harm. If that means we need to fund the District Attorneys, we need to do it and we need to find the money."

Morrisette says he will vote in favor of the $12 million budget request the DA's council is asking for.

However, the organization says it will need to raise about $40 million to be fully funded for this fiscal year. Right now, 55 percent of the budget for the DAs comes from the state.


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