County prosecutor pleased with staff

December 7, 2009
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Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth told members of the county’s Legislative and Human Resources Committee that he was particularly proud of the people in his office this year, as the department faces a declining budget for the coming year.

Forsyth said the assistant prosecuting attorneys agreed to put off receiving their raises, and staff members agreed not to take overtime pay for working on weekends and holidays. He said those actions saved the jobs of two employees for the coming budget year, which begins Jan. 1. The two staffers do support work for the attorneys.

Some might be surprised to learn that the Prosecutor’s Office works weekends and holidays. But Forsyth said his office has to be open around the clock every day in order to write arrest warrants.

“I have three people in the office who only write arrest warrants,” he said. “We write, in the course of a year, 10,000 warrants for misdemeanors and felonies.”

Forsyth added that writing warrants is the department’s most important task because it results in someone being arrested for an alleged criminal violation, and issuing a warrant for the wrong person could have a negative effect on a guiltless person’s life. He said that over the course of a year, the office also denied more than 9,000 arrest warrants.

Forsyth said the criminal division generates about 3,400 felony convictions a year. Roughly 100 of those come from jury trials, as guilty pleas make up a majority of the convictions.

A comparison by Forsyth of felony convictions among the state’s largest counties shows the local office as very efficient, a conclusion based on the number of convictions by each assistant prosecutor.


County
Kent
Macomb
Kalamazoo
Genesee
Oakland
Ingham

Assistant Prosecutors
38
64
30
36
104
31.5

Felony
Convictions
3,337
4,580
1,777
1,904
5,055
1,119

Convictions per
Assistant Prosecutor
88
72
59
53
49
36

Forsyth gathered the data for his comparison from the Michigan Department of Corrections and the 2008 Annual Survey of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Coordinating Council. Three findings stood out for him:
  • Despite having three times the number of assistant prosecutors as Kent County, Oakland County had less than twice the felony convictions of the local office.

  • Macomb County had more convictions than Kent County, but Macomb had 26 more assistant prosecutors than Kent.

  • Although the prosecutor’s budget in Genesee County is $1.1 million more than it is here, Macomb had 1,433 fewer felony convictions than Kent.

The county’s general fund outlay for the prosecutor’s office was $6.15 million for this year and is expected to fall to $6.11 million for next year. County commissioners will adopt the general fund budget for 2010 this week. The prosecutor’s office has 47 full-time employees and two part-time workers.

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