The first woman to be elected Oakland County Prosecutor said science and technology have dramatically changed the chief law enforcement office of the county.
“It is a very difficult job that is so technical and requires so much expertise—but I love it,” said Jessica Cooper from her Pontiac office. “Everyday I can go home and look in the mirror and know I made a difference.”
Cooper, who served as a judge for 28 years before being elected Oakland County Prosecutor in 2008, said her office handles between 14,000 and 20,000 cases a year.
“What you can do today compared to 25 or 30 years ago is amazing,” Cooper said. “For example, you can get prints off of surfaces that you could never get prints off before. It’s all very complex stuff.”
Cooper spent time with Royal Oak Patch talking about her career, public safety and Derek Meinecke, a candidate for 44th District Court judge.
Here are some of the things Cooper had to say.
On youth and computers:
“Crime prevention is the hallmark of my office, so I go into schools and talk about sexting, bullying, and computer predators,” Cooper said. “I remind students computers and cellphones don’t belong to them. You need to be 18 to sign a contract. I tell them, ‘Anytime your parents want to see what is on your computer, they can.’ So, I say, ‘If there is something you wouldn’t want them to see, don’t have it on your computer.’”
The prosecutor said computers make bullying easy.
“It’s easier to say horrific, terrible things when you don’t have to look into someone’s eyes. So I walk the halls of schools and I look into eyes,” Cooper said. “I want them to know barbs cause pain that you can’t see online.”
On seniors and crime:
Computers also pose a threat to seniors, the prosecutor said. They are unlikely to be the target of bullying, but they are often susceptible to identity theft, Cooper said.
“I have visited every senior center from Lake Orion to Oak Park, and we talk about how to password protect your cellphones and computers,” Cooper said. “We also talk about physical safety.”
In Royal Oak, Cooper was joined by Chief Corrigan O’Donohue at the Mahany/Meininger Center last December after the homicide of 80-year-old Nancy Dailey in her Royal Oak home.
“People were so frightened, we gave tips on how to be careful in cars and at home,” Cooper said.
(See “Seniors Get Safety Tips in Wake of Recent Slaying.”)
On the Nancy Dailey murder:
There is a tremendous amount of forensic evidence in the Dailey case—nail clippings, a washcloth with traces of blood on it, a blue scarf used to bind Dailey's arms, a knife encased in dirt that was removed from the median of Woodward Avenue and clothing belonging to the defendants.
“The more evidence, the slower it goes,” said Cooper. Prosecutors must wait for various agencies to complete testing on DNA and physical evidence. “I don’t think the public understands how complex things get.”
Cooper explains her office is a law enforcement law firm—not the investigators.
“The police are the investigators. They are the boots on the street. We help them get the search warrants they need and we advise them of the legal ramifications of what they are doing,” Cooper said.
Of the Royal Oak Police, Cooper said they did a “fabulous job” with the Dailey case.
“I always tell Chief O’Donohue he never seems to bring me anything easy," she said. "I am proud to have the trust of the Royal Oak Police, who are out there putting their lives on the line. Trust is the only way it works. It's not about politics it's about professionalism."
On Brooks Patterson:
The Royal Oak man charged with three misdemeanor counts in an August crash involving Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has a trial set for Jan. 11 on misdemeanor charges.
“The relevancy here is to a civil suit,” Cooper said. “The issue is the individuals were very seriously injured. It is likely there will be one heck of a civil suit.”
On the Oakland County Child Killings:
“It is important to point out that we are the legal arm here, not the investigators,” Cooper said. “The public needs to know we are part of a task force.”
For answers to frequently asked questions regarding the abductions and murders of four pre-teen children in 1976 and 1977, including 12-year-old Jill Robinson of Royal Oak, the prosecutor has set up a special web page found at: http://www3.oakgov.com/prosatty/Pages/prosecutor_corner/default.aspx
On Derek Meinecke:
“Derek is the personification of quiet confidence,” Cooper said. “He is competent, orderly, thoughtful and dedicated to his community.”
Cooper said she has had the opportunity to see Meinecke, who is an assistant Oakland County prosecutor, at work in the courtroom.
“He’s intense and he is genuine.”