The Orange County, Ca., district attorney’s investigations of police shootings have become increasingly beset with delays, leaving residents and the officers involved in the dark months longer than in other Southern California counties, says the Orange County Register. Prosecutors completed a similar number of investigations in 2009 and 2013, but the average time cases took to complete grew from six to 17 months. Similar investigations in neighboring counties normally take less than a year.
In addition to reviewing shootings for criminal liability, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ investigations carry extraordinary weight in Orange County’s understanding of deadly force. Police rarely discuss their shootings, referring most questions to the D.A. reports produced at the conclusion of investigations. The result: Slower investigations mean residents wait longer to learn exactly why police shot their neighbors. Officers say delays can produce needless tension among the rank-and-file and allow toxic gossip to go unchecked in the community. “There is lots of discussion about how long it takes. Everybody is concerned about how long it takes,” former Huntington Beach Police Chief Ken Small said. Civil rights activists, police union officials, criminologists and former district attorneys voiced similar concerns about the delays. Mothers of men shot by police said months without answers worsened their grief.