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Golden State Killer case shouldn’t devalue Auburn Police

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“Always be wary.

But don’t let that wariness spiral into paranoia.

And support your hard-working, dedicated Auburn Police Department.”

It’s a way of thinking that could stand the Auburn community in good stead these days in light of the arrest of a 72-year-old Citrus Heights man this past month on suspicion of a series of horrendous crimes that gripped California for a decade.

A crime wave of rapes and murders started in East Sacramento at about the time the suspect was hired to work in one of the most trusted jobs in the Auburn community. Then the crimes spread out to a reign of terror that took in much of California. 

While DeAngelo was allegedly committing these crimes, he was also putting on the badge of the Auburn Police Department. He was also an Auburn resident, living in a house on a side street near Auburn Ravine Road.

It’s not the first time a trust may have been breached by someone in a trusted position. And it won’t be the last. But this one hits home. And it hits about as hard as it could for many.  

For three years in the late 1970s, the man now charged with a series of horrendous crimes was an Auburn Police officer, patrolling local streets and responsible for the public’s safety.

Four decades later, Auburn Police officers were sent reeling by the news, shocked and searching their memories for clues that they may have missed that could have led investigators to a killer they were working alongside.

But while DeAngelo had quirks like a proclivity for junk food there were no warning signs to his fellow officers that he was a mass murderer known as the Golden State Killer.

Auburn Police weren’t alone. More than 40 years passed until DNA advances and some smart sleuthing using those advances led to a suspect’s doorstep and an arrest.

It was a long, tortuous road for victims, investigators and those who lived in those increasingly wary times.The DNA evidence points toward a long-sought conclusion of an investigation with a suspect behind bars who kept a state off the scent for generations.

The arrest of ex-Auburn Police Officer Joe DeAngelo should not signal a change in the respect a community has for its police department.

But that respect and support should be tempered with enough caution to know that anywhere or any time — as we have learned in the Golden State Killer case — a bad apple can emerge.

- The Auburn Journal