Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward was at a public event when he saw a deputy sheriff with his arm in a sling and asked what had happened.
A suspect had attacked him and dislocated his shoulder, the deputy told him.
That’s when Ward decided he wanted to do more to protect officers from attacks by suspects.
“Assault on a police officer should not just be part of the job,” he said. “I think it’s important we take a stand … We’re sending a message.”
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The new Crimes Against Police Officers unit is starting inside the DA’s office as soon as three deputy district attorneys – two in Visalia and one in Porterville – get trained. There’s no extra cost to the county, he said.
Assault on a police officer should not just be part of the job.
Tim Ward, Tulare County district attorney
It appears to be the first such unit in the area.
Ward said attacks on officers are becoming more common locally, although there’s no good data on the topic. But a staff member tallied the number of active cases of assaults on a police officer.
“I was shocked we had 88 cases,” Ward said. “That’s not including the misdemeanor resisting arrests.”
But Tulare County Public Defender Lisa Bertolino questions whether the rate of attacks against police officers has increased and if a special prosecuting unit is warranted.
“It sounds like a popular thing to do, but I don’t see the need for it,” she said.
The reaction of rank and file police officers has been positive, Ward said.
Ward insisted he’s not creating the unit to get police officer associations to endorse him when he seeks re-election next year.
“Everything I do until June 2018 will be second-guessed,” he said. “People can think what they want … I’m not going to wait until after the election (to form the unit).”