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8/27 Guest Opinion -- John Fisher

DA's office is doing its job

Last week Dallas Police Chief Jim Harper and Sheriff Bob Wolfe made statements to the Itemizer-Observer about my missing work and suggested that, as a result, criminal prosecutions in Polk County have suffered.

Their assertions are factually misleading and inaccurate.

We have filed fewer cases in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, but that is true statewide. The police have also referred fewer cases to us for prosecution. The district attorney's office has no investigative staff. We can only file cases to the extent police send them to us.

Our office has declined no cases for prosecution because of my illness. Earlier this year my Chief Deputy, Mark Heslinga, conducted a study of the reasons some cases are declined for prosecution and shared the results with law enforcement. There were no complaints.

We have filed more serious felony cases, and more defendants have received lengthy criminal sentences in the first half of this year compared with last. We have taken a greater number of cases to trial over the same period of time. Our standards for resolving cases haven't changed.

The number of people in jail is a poor measure of how well crime is investigated and prosecuted. Judges, not police or prosecutors, decide who stays in jail and for how long. Two of our judges are former district attorneys; none are reluctant to fashion a sentence that suits the criminal and the crime.

I do suffer from an illness: clinical depression. I've lived with this my entire adult life: through law school, four years in the Navy and 22 years at the district attorney's office. Depression can often be treated successfully with medication and/or counseling, and that has been true for me.

For most of the past decade I have been symptom free, but last fall I suffered a major depressive cycle that has proven difficult to treat. I missed two weeks of work, and since then have worked as my health permits. My staff knows of my illness. Each has pitched in and helped, just as we have always done when one of us has been ill or suffered a debilitating trauma.

I feel sad that Chief Harper and Sheriff Wolfe have seen fit to go to the press with their allegations. They have, even if unintentionally, impugned the integrity of myself and my staff. I hope their only motivation was a genuine concern for the administration of justice in Polk County. If so, I can assure them and the public that each prosecuting attorney and staff member at the district attorney's office is competent, well-trained and committed to the prosecution of criminals in Polk County and to the safety of each and every citizen.

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John Fisher has served as Polk County District Attorney since 1999 and has worked in the DA office for more than 22 years.

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