DA must justify request for protection

If District Attorney John Sarsfield wants special security for
his family at taxpayer expense, he needs to show a direct link that
his efforts in performing the public’s business has created a
realistic threat to himself and his family.
If District Attorney John Sarsfield wants special security for his family at taxpayer expense, he needs to show a direct link that his efforts in performing the public’s business has created a realistic threat to himself and his family.

Sarsfield approached the San Benito County Board of Supervisors last week asking for special security for himself and his family after his son was allegedly assaulted. Because the boy is a minor, little detail of the assault was provided. But Sarsfield said it was the sole reason behind his request, though he did mention his office has been the focus of a “growing pattern of harassment” during the past two years. He named off several allegations of abuse toward him and said he believes the string of incidents are connected.

Supervisors took no immediate action but asked the Hollister Police Department and San Benito Sheriff’s Department to work with the DA and report back on the possibility of danger to the Sarsfield family. They said they were obligated to fund extra protection if it was needed.

Granted if Sarsfield could prove his work for the people of San Benito County was responsible for an undeniable threat to himself and his family beyond the obvious risk any district attorney assumes with the job, then special police protection and the associated costs that come with it would be warranted.

However, Sarsfield was unable to justify that claim beyond the alleged assault to his son – which may or may not be work related. Local police provided almost no detail on the altercation and Sarsfield did not elaborate on how the alleged attack was associated to his job or an effort to hold a recall election to force him out of office.

When he accepted the District Attorney job, Sarsfield must have known being in the public eye as the county’s top cop would result in the potential for danger to him and his family. He should have learned that fact during his years as a criminal prosecutor serving as deputy district attorney in Monterey County. Obviously, some of the criminals the DA has sent to jail possibly would have an interest in payback, but there is no indication the Sarsfields are in imminent danger – at least no more so than any other public official such as the sheriff, police chief or local judges.

Sheriff Lt. Pat Turturicci said last week local police have increased patrols in the Sarsfields’ neighborhood, and until the threat is proven beyond what only may have been a school yard scuffle, that should suffice.

Of course, the goal is not to put the Sarsfield family in harm’s way, but considering the significant budget problems for the county and an overall lack of police in Hollister, risking the well-being of the citizens of the county for one possibly isolated event doesn’t make sense. Our local police and sheriff’s deputies have a duty to every citizen in Hollister and the county and it is not right to increase the risk of, and expense to, the community at large with special protection for the DA and his family when no firm connection has been made between Sarsfield’s son and his father’s work.

Should Sarsfield publicly prove an immediate and realistic threat to himself and his family, then the call for special protection is warranted. But until that time, he should only be subject to the same protection as the rest of us.

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