COQUILLE — Paul Frasier will seek another term as district attorney.
Having joined the Coos County District Attorney's Office as a deputy DA in 1990 and served as DA since 2008, Frasier knows retirement isn't too far away. But he said he wants to continue building on the successes of his office and helping Coos County transition through its current turbulent period.
Given the continuing shortage of both local jail and state prison beds, Frasier remains committed to finding alternatives while curbing recidivism.
“In conjunction with the Coos County Community Corrections Department and with help from the state Justice Reinvestment Act, I have assigned a full-time prosecutor to work with our local probation department to work with offenders who are at risk of re-offending,” Frasier said. “Make no mistake. There are crimes that by their serious nature or offenders who refuse to comply that will require incarceration as their sentence. But there are offenders, who by giving them a second chance, we can help develop the skills and abilities to be a productive member of society so that they can break the cycle of recidivism.”
The county has seen success in advocacy for victims.
Frasier cited creation of the Kids' HOPE Center to advocate for child victims of abuse and the success of the county's child support program, which collected over $2 million in owed child support in 2014.
“Our victims' assistance program continues to provide needed services to those who are victims of crime,” Frasier said. “The child support program continues to do an excellent job of collecting child support for children in Coos County.”
But an issue that has long plagued the county is attracting and retaining deputy DAs.
“I think that for me the biggest challenge is the ability of this office to retain good, experienced prosecutors,” Frasier said. “If you look at who we have, most of them have 18 months or less experience.”
Many deputy DAs have used the position as a stepping stone to higher profile, more lucrative opportunities.
“Some of the people we hire happen to come with the idea that 'I'm going to do a couple years and then become a trial practitioner in private practice,'” Frasier said. “There's another group, probably the majority, who want to make prosecution a career, and for a variety of reasons, they decide to move to another opportunity.”
Having lost a few deputy DAs to both Clackamas and Deschutes counties and even the U.S. Attorney's Office, Frasier said he finds it a bit bittersweet knowing the level of talent he has molded, but also having a revolving door and needing to retrain prosecutors.
Exposing his understudies to success in major cases, including convictions in all but one of the homicide cases over his tenure as DA, hasn't hurt their profile.
“It is kind of flattering, because what I try to do is as soon as they are able to get into the more serious crimes, I make them second chair,” Frasier said. “Once they've gotten that experience a few times, they're off to bigger and better things because it makes them a hot commodity somewhere else.”
The county's salaries place it at a competitive disadvantage, and with the county facing a $2 million budget shortfall in the immediate future, it will continue to have a problem luring and retaining attorneys.
But in the meantime, Frasier is dedicated to building a strong core at the DA's Office, including finding his eventual successor, as he tries to find a solution to the problem.
“In two or three years they can receive a step increase, but they could go elsewhere and walk into a job with a $20,000 raise,” Frasier said. “Our starting income is a bit below average, but if they stick around for a few years, it'll get more competitive.
“It's getting them to that point, but then another county says they can start here right now at that point. It's a money issue, a little out of my control, but something in the coming years we hope we can address.”