Assembly Passes Stricter Police Use-of-Force Bill

For the second year in a row, a sweeping police reform measure that law-enforcement organizations said was motivated by antipathy toward peace officers has been embraced by the state Legislature.

Last year lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1421 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. It required police agencies to release information on officer discipline records – treating these records the same as many others that are routinely released to the public under government openness laws. California’s police disclosure rules previously had been among the strictest in the nation.

This year, Assembly Bill 392, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, appears headed for passage after being approved 67-0 by the Assembly on Wednesday. It says officers may only use lethal force if it is “necessary” for public safety. Existing law says officers can use such force if they believe it is “reasonable” to ensure public safety. While provisions in Assembly Bill 392 were dropped to persuade law enforcement organizations to end their opposition and take a neutral stand – as they did last week – the ACLU says the bill will create among the strictest use-of-force standards of any state.

These organizations were lobbied by Gov. Gavin Newsom to accept Assembly Bill 392. After their decision to go neutral was announced, Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins issued a joint statement endorsing Weber’s bill, seemingly guaranteeing its eventual approval.

The passage of the two reform measures would have been impossible to imagine earlier this century. Law enforcement unions had tight relationships with most elected Democrats, the same as with unions for teachers, nurses, service workers and government bureaucrats, providing them with heavy campaign contributions.

Gov. Gray Davis’ 2001 decision to give prison guards a five-year, 37 percent raise after its union helped him get elected in 1998 drew sharp blow-back from good-government advocates and newspaper editorial boards, especially after the 2003 revelationthat Davis had badly underestimated the long-term cost of the labor deal. It was among the issues that helped lead to his unprecedented recall later that year.

2004 CHP scandal downplayed by state leaders

But the clout of law enforcement was again on display a year later. In 2004, the Sacramento Bee broke the story of a pervasive workers’ compensation scam in the upper reaches of the California Highway Patrol. The Bee found that 55 of the 65 senior CHP officers who had retired since 2000 had filed workers’ comp claims – with some citing injuries never reported while they were on the job. Their disability claims were routinely approved, sharply increasing their retirement benefits.

CHP Commissioner Dwight “Spike” Helmick agreed to retire after the “Chiefs Disease” scandal broke, then added to it by also claiming he was disabled because of vehicle accidents in the 1970s and 1980s. But neither the Legislature or Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who courted and won law enforcement support – agreed with calls to bring in an outside reformer to run the agency. Instead, Schwarzenegger chose Mike Brown, one of Helmick’s top aides.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer declined to prosecute the case, citing conflicts of interest because of his office’s close ties to the CHP. The case was assigned to Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully. But in 2007, she closed the investigation without bringing any charges. Scully said CHP officials and former officials were “unable or unwilling” to testify about the pension-spiking scheme. The story faded from the headlines.

But ties between lawmakers and police unions have weakened since then as the national outcry has grown over alleged police mistreatment of minorities, especially a series of fatal shootings of young African-American men in questionable circumstances. The California Democratic Party has also had an influx of newly elected progressive lawmakers who dislike the aggressive, confrontational policing style adopted by many departments after it was credited with reducing crime in New York City in the 1990s under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Recent analyses of how Assembly Bill 392 overcame the obstacles that doomed a similar bill last year have focused on the March 2018 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black father of two, in Sacramento.

The announcement two months ago that no officer would face charges for Clark’s death triggered an outcry so intense it became a national and international story that appeared to give Weber’s bill new momentum.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California police unions are preparing to battle new transparency law in the courtroomc

The Fredericksburg, Va. Police Department has introduced the use portable video camera devices worn by all on-duty officers. The Taser Axon Flex is the product in use. (Copyright, Robert A. Martin/Freelance)

Just as a landmark police transparency law is going into effect, some California police agencies are shredding internal affairs documents and law enforcement unions are rushing to block the information from being released.

The new law, which begins to unwind California’s strictest-in-the-nation protections over the secrecy of law enforcement records, opens to the public internal investigations of officer shootings and other major uses of force, along with confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying while on duty. But the lawsuits and records destruction, which began even before the law took effect Jan. 1, could tie up the release of information for months or years, and in some instances, prevent it from ever being disclosed.

“The fact that police unions are challenging this law is on some level not surprising,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, one of the principal supporters of the new law. “They have a long history of fighting tooth and nail against transparency.”

Before this year, the public couldn’t access police disciplinary records outside of a courtroom. The same prohibitions, which were first put into place four decades ago after a push from police unions, applied to prosecutors as well. California was the only state in the nation where that was the case. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Recent Prop. 47 Study and Article Fail to Give Full Analysis on Crime in California


Police tapeMore people are leaving California than entering; so the question is why? Could it be higher than national average home prices, unfriendly family policies or could it be the possible uptick in crime? Underlying social pressures highlight the difficulty of staying in California and the continuance of progressive, Democratic voters to not look at the reality of what’s plaguing our state. But the patterns of who’s moving in, and who’s moving out, underline some of the social and economic pressure that have made California, and other coastal areas, so prohibitively expensive; but also progressively unsafe.

If you believe a recent article by Sal Rodriguez in the OC Register who quotes a study by University of California Irvine (UCI) professor of criminology, law & society, Charis Kubrin that concludes, “Prop. 47, didn’t have any significant uptick on crime,” then why are so many Californians complaining about increased crime while others are fleeing the state?

Before raising troubling aspects about this study, what does one part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office, have to say about the Prop. 47 numbers? According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Crescenta Valley Station (www.CrescentaValley.LASD.org) here are the facts about Prop. 47:

“Following the implementation of AB 109 & Prop. 47, communities across California have experienced increases in property related crimes. An 8.1% increases across the State and a 10% increase in LA County.”

So whom do you believe – Professor Kubrin and Sal Rodriguez – or the men and women who do actual law enforcement? What Professor Kubrin doesn’t point out is how Prop. 47 downgraded serious crimes such as “drug possession, repeated shoplifting, forging checks, gun theft and possession of date-rape drugs,” which were all felonies before Prop. 47’s passage. The Sheriff’s Department also states:

“A criminal can engage in recurring theft activity as long as the value of what is stolen during each theft is less than $950. Illegal drugs – including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine – have been reclassified as a misdemeanor.”

Professor Kubrin and Mr. Rodriguez – neither one – asked, studied or considered why homelessness is on the rise in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in general though voters and Democratic elected officials have attempted to address this growing issue. Drive through downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica or San Francisco and witness the amount of strung-out homeless to belie the fact that higher dollar amounts for felonies means what once landed an addict into drug rehabilitation programs now puts them back onto the streets to the detriment of the individual, businesses, neighborhood safety and communities-at-large.

Furthermore, what the UCI study doesn’t take into affect is how Prop. 57 (the ‘Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act’) and Assembly Bill 109 (released 45,000 felons from California prisons) were passed simultaneously in 2016. To study one without factoring in the other is biased, negligent and misleading. Mr. Rodriguez and Professor Kubrin, who authored the study, should have known better, also this was nothing more than an agenda-driven piece to appeal to a lowest common denominator that will assist more Democrats being elected in 2018.

Take Prop. 57, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, Prop. 57:

“Allows the State to release 30,000 criminals convicted of ‘non-violent,’ felonies and classifies these crimes as non-violent: rape by intoxication, rape of unconscious person, human trafficking involving sex act with minors, drive-by shooting, assault with a deadly weapon, hate crimes causing physical injury, and corporal injury to a child.”

Mr. Rodriguez didn’t report this and Professor Kubrin didn’t add Prop. 57 or AB 109 into her study. Shoddy research is what can be taken away from her study by not including these official reclassifying of crimes that were once felonies. Now add AB 109, which requires local jails –that don’t have the money, resources or ability – to house violent felons and what takes place is tens of thousands of supposedly low-level convicted felons back on the street; but this wasn’t added into her study or Mr. Rodriguez’s article as well. AB 109 has now taken criminals with serious felony violations and placed them in local jails instead of state prisons.

Disgust though lies at the feet of Professor Kubrin’s misleading and faulty research methods. First when you click on the actual study on the UCI website you are only given a Fact Sheet whose graphs are barely readable without being defined, definitions not put into context with Prop. 47, and most importantly on this “Fact Sheet,” how independent and dependent variables are calculated. As someone who has done studies, regressions and econometrics there is nothing of the sort in Professor Kubrin’s study.

She then states and Mr. Rodriguez blithely reports on a variable defined as “synthetic California,” that is part of the “Synthetic Control Group Study Design,” which reminds me of graduate and undergraduate studies and degree in economics where microeconomics is defined as having, “perfect competition.” Anyone who has ever held a job or attempted a business in the marketplace knows there is no such thing as “perfect competition,” just as there isn’t such a concept as “synthetic California.” And when you read the Fact Sheet the reader will find the study isn’t completed so that makes Mr. Rodriguez’s reporting misleading at best and a fire able offense at worst for so grossly understating the problems as public record.

Understanding regressions is very important, because Professor Kubrin states there was no causation or even correlation when she either doesn’t know what she’s doing running regressions or isn’t telling the truth on purpose. Regressions are used in econometrics and statistical analysis and goes back to high school geometry using the formula Y=mx+b where Y is the dependent variable and mx+b are the independent variables that either move the Y variable (causation) or merely cause them to move together along a regression line (correlation). If Professor Kubrin, Mr. Rodriguez and the entire UCI department of criminology, law & society doesn’t include AB 109 and Prop. 57 into their regressions or econometric studies then it doesn’t pass confidence interval levels. A fancy, boring regression term for how something has to be at least true 90% of the time to even warrant mentioning; and then it scales up to 95% and 99%.

To say Prop. 47 doesn’t show causation is irresponsible and she should be demoted or be made to take a graduate level econometrics and statistics for public policy analysis course. I took both and Professor Kubrin is doing the level of work that would get her kicked out of class, graduate school or possibly brought up on charges of plagiarism for gross academic violations.

Run the regressions, report on the economic analysis; and more importantly factor into the study and regressions the affects of felonious crimes going from $250 up to $950 as a variable and watch the causation affects of Prop. 47 coupled with AB 109 and Prop. 57 move upwards on the regression line into the 99% confidence interval level is what I’d predict. This is why people don’t trust universities and academics such as Drs. Victor Davis Hanson and Walter Williams believe most colleges outside of the hard sciences (accounting, engineering and medicine) have lost their way. Professor Kubrin proves that’s the case and Mr. Rodriguez shows bush league reporting without checking his sources. Next time, before reporting something, make sure the study has actually been published and more recent data was used for the study and article. Laughingly, the data used by UCI, Professor Kubrin and Mr. Rodriguez came from 2015. California should trust the L.A. County Sheriff Department over this worthless study.

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.

Prop. 57: Judicial Depravity in California


Police tapeIn November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act. Championed by Governor Jerry Brown, the measure expanded parole possibilities for nonviolent offenders and barred prosecutors from filing juvenile cases in adult court. Last month, California’s Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 57 could be applied retroactively. On those grounds, California’s Third Court of Appeals “conditionally reversed” the conviction of one of the most violent criminals in state history and expanded his prospects for early release.

Daniel Marsh was just 15 on April 14, 2013, when he broke into the Davis home of 87-year-old Oliver “Chip” Northup, an attorney and popular bluegrass musician, and his 76-year-old wife, Claudia Maupin, a pastoral associate at the Davis Unitarian Church, where the couple met. A police report said that the two were killed “in a way that manifested exceptional depravity,” which was no exaggeration. The autopsy report runs 16 pages and 6,658 words, noting that the murderer stabbed Maupin 67 times and Northup 61 times. Marsh disemboweled both victims; he placed a cell phone inside the corpse of Maupin and a drinking glass inside Northup.

In his lengthy interview with police, Marsh said that Maupin told him to “please stop.” Marsh kept on stabbing because “she just wouldn’t die.” The stabbing “just felt right,” and the double murder and mutilations, Marsh said, “felt amazing,” gave him “pure happiness,” and “the most exhilarating enjoyable feeling I’ve ever felt.” He inserted the phone and glass to throw investigators off track, and when police accused him of the murders, his first response was “I’m a kid.” Marsh’s public defender sought to have the confession tossed, but Judge David Reed rejected that bid. Marsh then offered an insanity defense, bringing in expert witness James Merikangas, a psychologist and neurologist, who claimed that Marsh was in a “dissociative state” when he killed.

Prosecutors Michael Cabral and Amanda Zambor made the case that Marsh was sane at the time of the murders; a Yolo County jury agreed, and in December 2014, Judge David Reed sentenced Marsh to 52 years to life in state prison. The killer received an additional year for use of a knife, but got no extra time for lying in wait or committing torture. The double murderer, now 20, would be eligible for parole after 25 years, when he would be in his early forties.

On February 1, 2018, the California Supreme Court addressed the case of Pablo Lara, a juvenile charged with kidnapping and raping a seven-year-old girl. The court ruled that Proposition 57 “applies retroactively,” because “the possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court — where rehabilitation is the goal — rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment.” Proposition 57 “reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles,” and therefore, the court ruled, Proposition 57 “applies to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted.”

On February 22, the Third Court of Appeals ruled that the case of Daniel Marsh “was not fully briefed until July 2017.” Therefore, “this initiative applies retroactively to defendant’s pending appeal, and that we must conditionally reverse for proceeding in juvenile court.” So all that painstaking work by Cabral and Zambor has been set aside by a three-judge panel headed by Kathleen Butz, an appointee of Governor Gray Davis. Also on the panel was Jerry Brown appointee Cole Blease, former attorney for the California Teachers Association. The appeal ruling does not name Northup and Maupin, the victims of the savage and pointless murder.

A proceeding will determine if Marsh was indeed suitable for trial in adult court. If so, the court will restore Marsh’s conviction for the two murders. If not, he will be re-sentenced as a juvenile and face a maximum punishment of incarceration until age 25. Whatever one chooses to call it, the proceeding is clearly a new trial for a sadist who has never shown the slightest remorse for his savage actions. In 2014, when the court declined to toss Marsh’s detailed confession, Maupin’s daughter Victoria Hurd said that the decision “restores faith in humanity in the midst of this depravity.” In 2018, when Hurd got word of the reversal, she told the Sacramento Bee: “This is so wrong. It’s come barreling back into our presence.”

Marsh is not the only shut-and-open case in the Proposition 57 pipeline. According to California’s attorney general, there were 71,923 juvenile arrests in 2015, 29.7 percent of which were for felonies. Five hundred and sixty-six juveniles were tried in adult court, and 88 percent were convicted. YOUNG MAN CONVICTED IN 2014 MURDER WANTS NEW TRIAL AFTER PROP. 57 PASSES, read a headline in the San Diego Union-Tribune about Kurese Bell, convicted of murder at age 17. PROP. 57 COULD TURN BACK TIME FOR MINORS CHARGED WITH MURDER, the Lompoc Record announced.

As with the case of Daniel Marsh, these judicial reconsiderations will have nothing to do with potentially exculpatory evidence or errors in trial; they are politically and ideologically driven attempts to overturn legal and proper verdicts. Relatives of Claudia Maupin, Oliver Northup, or other victims have good reason to see these efforts as perverse, even depraved.

Innovative Incarceration Could Result in Lower Costs and Safer Citizens


PrisonThe average annual cost to house a prisoner in California is $71,000, and according to the California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, the cost has risen 45% since just 2011. And as costs have soared, California’s policymakers have resorted to creative ways to release inmates from California’s overcrowded prisons. But what if that Californian creativity could be harnessed to lower the cost of incarceration?

This process began in 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must reduce its state prison population to no more than 137% of its design capacity within two years. In an attempt to comply, the state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109, which required non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders with sentences of longer than one year to be housed in county jail facilities rather than state prisons.

Because AB109, the so-called prison “realignment,” merely shifted costs for incarceration from the state to the counties, two additional measures of significance were passed in an attempt to reduce the overall inmate population. These were sold to voters as reform initiatives, and both of them passed with substantial majorities. Prop. 47, passed in 2014, reclassified several felonies as misdemeanors, which had the effect of reducing prison sentences in new cases, and earlier release for prisoners sentenced for crimes no longer classified as felonies. Prop. 57, passed in 2016, granted early release opportunities to inmates with good behavior who had committed non-violent crimes.

These measures resulted in the early release of tens of thousands of inmates onto California’s streets. Since enactment, violent crime has increased in California, although the data is mixed. For example, according to the FBI, while violent crime in California increased in 2015 and 2016, it increased across most of the U.S. in those years. As stated in a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California, “California’s violent crime rate increased by 3.7% in 2016 to 444 per 100,000 residents. There have been other recent upticks in 2012 and 2015, but the statewide rate is still comparable to levels in the late 1960s.”

More recently – most crime statistics for 2017 are not yet available – the L.A. Times reports that in 2017 “in Los Angeles, homicides are down, but violent crime is up.” A big picture perspective on crime trends in California can be seen in this graphic produced by Politifact.com using data from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office:

California Crime Trends – Crime Rates per 100,000 Residents

California Crime Trends

As can be seen, rates of crime in California rose throughout the 60s and 70s, reaching a high plateau that lasted right up until around 1994, when California passed the three strikes law. After that, crime rates fell precipitously for years, reaching historic lows. Since 2014, rates of crime have been rising, even though they remain relatively low from a historical perspective.

But why should we be happy with a 0.4% rate of violent crime? Why should 4% of Californians be victimized by a violent criminal in any given decade? And who’s to say that crime rates would not have continued to decline, if it weren’t for the passage of Props. 47 and 57?

More to the point, whether or not Californians should or should not incarcerate more criminals, or impose longer sentences on criminals, Californians don’t have that option. Because it costs too much to house prisoners in California. How can California house more inmates without building more conventional prisons, which are staggeringly expensive?

An excellent resource prepared by BackgroundChecks.org shows the costs per prisoner in other states. Nevada, our neighbor to the east, only spends $17,851 per year per prisoner. Alabama has the lowest cost, at $14,780 per prisoner. Arizona, $25,397. Even Oregon and Washington, California’s left coast comrades in bloated inefficient government excess, manage to spend far less than California does, paying per prisoner costs of $44,021 and $37,841, respectively.

Why?

When you read up on costs per prisoner in other states, the results are somewhat amusing. Because in those states, the conventional wisdom is that costs are out of control. Alabama’s costs per prisoner have “doubled since 2003.” In Nevada, “overtime costs continue to mount.” Imagine that. But in all states, the same factors contribute to rising costs to house prisoners. California just spends more, in every category. Here is a table from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office showing details of the cost per prisoner.

California’s Costs per Prisoner – Itemized Costs

Costs per prisoner

It’s likely these costs are understated. Does “Security” include the additional amounts that will be necessary to properly fund the pensions that are due our correctional officers? Does “Facility Operations” include the payments on the billions that have been borrowed by the state to construct California’s 34 state prisons?

In the recently approved California state budget for 2017-18, $11.4 billion is allocated to the Department of Corrections, up another $286 million (2.6%) from last year. But again, this doesn’t begin to represent the true cost to taxpayers. A recent UCLA study estimated the cost of incarceration for just the County of Los Angeles at nearly $1.0 billion last year.

It’s likely the total cost to California’s taxpayers to incarcerate criminals – taking into account state and local expenses – is easily twice the $11.4 billion budgeted by the state. And these inflated costs can be attributed to two causes. First, the excessive costs caused by unionized government – pensions in particular, and excessive costs to build state prisons, caused by a union controlled state legislature requiring needlessly expensive project labor agreements. Second, and arguably even more significant, the overall excessive cost-of-living in California – also a byproduct of policies enacted by California’s union controlled state legislature – which makes everything more expensive.

The burden of realignment – foisting responsibility for state prisoners back onto the counties where they were convicted – is also an opportunity. Because counties, like states in our federal system, are laboratories of democracy, laboratories of policy. Why can’t California’s counties experiment with new modes of incarceration. If inmates are sequestered to Cal Fire to work the fire lines, why can’t they do other tasks throughout the rural regions of California? Why not use inmates to improve rural access roads, remove dead trees from our drought-stressed forests, or even work in agriculture?

While many inmates may be too dangerous to do this sort of work, with new technologies to monitor and control prisoners, it is possible that prisoners who would not be viable candidates for these programs in the past would be qualified today. Electronic monitoring devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Why not use these devices to monitor not only location, but heart rate or, who knows, even brain waves or other physical indicators of imminent fight or flight? Wouldn’t adding additional capabilities to these devices allow more effective means to deter escape and even prevent violence? Why not use swarms of inexpensive drones to hover in the vicinity of inmates, reducing the number of guards required, and replacing some or all layers of expensive security fencing? Why not equip these drones with nonlethal means to prevent escape or violence?

Law enforcement has stayed abreast of new technologies and that is one of the reasons rates of crime are down sharply across America. While the impact of new technologies must be constantly scrutinized, and some of them may be problematic, there is no reason not to extend these tools beyond law enforcement into the corrections industry. It’s reasonable to assume most inmates would prefer a virtual prison to the penitentiary. One that afforded them mobility, equal or greater safety, a mission, a chance to engage in a vocation, and fresh air. Such innovation might also bring welcome relief to taxpayers.

Trying – and failing – to explain away California’s high crime rate


california-prisonsImagine the reaction if, after a loan officer told an applicant they would not receive a loan because of too much debt, the applicant asked “How about we just disregard 25% of my debt?”

As illogical as this sounds, it was the approach recently articulated by a group seeking to downplay the crime rate increases in California following various criminal justice “reforms.”  In a study picked up by a few newspapers, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJJ) opined that the crime rate statewide in California decreased following these reforms – if you excluded Los Angeles County.  Yes, Los Angeles County, where more than one out of four residents of California reside!

The propaganda espoused by proponents of these various reform measures is that crime is not really rising very much so long as it isn’t as bad as it was 30 years ago. They continue that trend with their attempt to manipulate the statewide crime rate increase by excluding more than 25% of the population.

Contrary to the line peddled by CJJ, the violent crime rate in California per 100,000 has risen since the passage of AB 109.  AB 109 was enacted in October, 2011, a year when the violent crime rate in California was 413.3 per 100,000.  In 2016, the violent crime rate in California was 443.9 — an increase of more than 7% over the 2011 violent crime rate.

Likewise noteworthy is the increase in the property crime rate since the 2014 passage of Prop 47 which reduced multiple theft offenses to inconsequential misdemeanors.  The property crime rate in California increased in both 2015 and 2016 from the property crime rate in 2014, years in which the rest of the United States marked two more years of a continuation of a 14-year decrease in property crime rates.  Further, prior to Prop 47, California had seen three straight years of property crime rate decreases.

The ADDA has joined crime victims, law enforcement, business owners and public safety leaders working to pass the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018.”  This initiative will address some of the serious flaws brought on by “criminal justice reform.”  Learn more about “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” at www.KeepCaliforniaSafe.org

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Meet Some Prop. 57 Early Release Inmates


Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies inspect a cell block at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he plans to implement all the reforms suggested by a commission in the wake of allegations that a culture of violence flourished in his jails. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

We extensively chronicled how the Prop. 57 campaign was sold on the lie that only “non-violent” criminals would be released early from their lawfully imposed state prison terms. The decision on who gets the early release is now in the hands of the Board of Parole, whose release decisions show an appalling disregard of fact and reality. Some examples of these early release decisions are highlighted below.

Paul Karl Anderson — With a criminal history that begins in 1981, and included felony convictions for assault and thefts, Anderson upped the ante in 1995 when he robbed a bank with a weapon and then held a hostage upon being tracked down by federal marshals.  The Board of Parole granted early release from the sentence imposed for his bank robbery/hostage taking because they determined Anderson does not “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Rodney Hansen — This inmate’s current prison stint results from a conviction for threatening his ex-girlfriend by tossing a knife at her feet, then threatening to kill both himself and her. Prior convictions since 2007 included possession of a firearm and residential burglary. Nonetheless, the Board of Parole found this inmate should be released early because he does not “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Recole Mitchell — Mitchell was sent to prison for convictions of possession of a loaded firearm in 2016, and threatening to kill his mother in 2015. Despite a lengthy criminal history that begins in 2003 and included two separate convictions for carrying a loaded firearm, the Board of Parole granted Mitchell an early release because they decided Mitchell does not”pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Paul Silvas — Sentenced to prison in 2015 for stabbing the family dog to death, Silvas had a prior history of violence as evidenced by his 2008 conviction for assault with a firearm. While he incurred five disciplinary actions since being sent to prison, the Board of Parole found that Silvas “shows compliance with institutional rules” and released him early on the grounds that he does not”pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Governor Brown promised the public that only non-violent offenders would be released under Prop. 57. A bank robber/hostage taker, a gun-toting felon who threatened to kill his mother, a knife-wielding felon who threatened to kill his girlfriend, and a dog killer are probably not who the public expected back into their communities. But the public need not fret. After all, the Board of Parole has determined that none of them pose “an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

The ADDA has joined crime victims, law enforcement, business owners and public safety leaders working to pass the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018.” We will soon be circulating petitions to put on the ballot the measure that will:

  • Reclassify currently “non-violent” crimes like rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child under 14, and other serious crimes as “violent” – to prevent the early release of inmates convicted of these crimes
  • Reform the parole system to stop the early release of violent felons, expand parolee oversight, and strengthen penalties for parole violations
  • Reform theft laws to restore accountability for serial thieves and organized theft gangs
  • Expand DNA collection to some low level convictions in order to solve violent crimes like rape and murder-and to exonerate those wrongly accused
  • Learn more about “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” at www.KeepCaliforniaSafe.org.

resident of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Bay Area Takes Police-State Approach to Tobacco


 

Could high taxes and crime push California voters to a tipping point?


VotingDespite changing demographics and a sharp veer to the ideological left, is it possible that California could take a political trip back to the future as two staples resurface that drove the state’s politics in the more conservative 1980s and 1990s? Look around and you’ll see indications that even in this liberal bastion on the left coast, the issues of taxes and crime are stirring again.

From the time when cinema’s Doc Brown (Dr. Emmett L. Brown, ably played by Christopher Lloyd) was sending his flux-capacitor equipped DeLorean back in time to today’s California run by Jerry Brown — a past-and-future character if there ever was one — attitudes on the issues of taxes and crime seemed to have shifted dramatically.

Considering recent evidence, one might think that the tax issue has faded from the conscience of Californians, most of whom were not around when the state’s voters kicked off a national tax revolt that helped propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency by overwhelmingly passing property tax-cutting Proposition 13 in 1978.

In a Wall Street Journal piece from a year ago leading up to the 2016 election, I asked, “Nearly 40 years later, many Californians are wondering: Will the tax revolt mind-set die where it all began?”

After all a measure on the 2016 ballot (Proposition 55) extended the highest-in-the nation income tax that voters put in place just four years previously; a cigarette tax passed, as did many local taxes and bonds.

This year’s legislative session included a gas tax increase, the cap-and-trade extension, which many call a tax increase because it raises revenue for the government to spend, and a document tax to fund housing issues. This legislative session probably produced the most pro-tax successes since the 1935 legislature created both a state income tax and a vehicle license fee.

Yet all this tax activity may be driving voters to a tipping point to say enough!

The first indication is the California electorate’s sour reaction to the gas tax. In a University of California Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted after the gas tax increase became law, 58 percent opposed the gas tax, 39 percent solidly opposed. The twelve-cent a gallon tax will not even be collected until November. The negative reaction to the tax seen in the poll likely would increase once the tax adds to the price of gasoline at the pump.

The test of new California resistance to taxes could well occur in November 2018. Two measures to repeal the tax have been filed. A gas tax repeal measure could rally Republican voters to the polls during the general election, especially if no Republican makes the runoff for either of the state’s high-profile offices, governor and United States senator. Since the state’s Republican Party is said to be behind one of the repeal initiative proposals,  polling shows that this is a powerful issue among voters. In addition a Southern California state senator, Democrat Josh Newman, is facing a recall effort centered on his gas tax vote.

The heated debate over extending cap andtrade to reduce greenhouse gases centered on the additional costs that would be felt by California consumers. The word “tax” would have dominated were a word cloud image created over word use frequency during the cap-and-trade debate. Increased costs generated by cap-and-trade demands were labeled a hidden tax.

California citizens have yet to feel the additional costs that the cap-and-trade measure might add—anywhere from fifteen- to seventy-three-cents per gallon of gasoline over time, according to the state’s legislative analyst.

If the gas tax repeal makes the ballot, an interesting political dynamic will play out in defense of the tax. A campaign to preserve the tax would likely have the greatest financial support. The tax was supported by both labor and big business. They argued that California’s economy depends on improved transportation and updated roads and highways. Business also supported the cap-and-trade bill, fearing if it were defeated an unelected California Air Resources Board would put a tougher, command-and-control greenhouse gas restriction in place.

The individual voter who pays the freight of the gas tax increase, additional car fees, and increased costs linked to the cap-and-trade law, however, may want to use the gas tax repeal initiative to send a message.

A rejection of the gas tax increase would certainly be a marker that as liberal as Californians have become, there is still a conservative streak when it comes to taxes and a potent issue from the past could return.

Meanwhile there is the issue of crime—like taxes, also on the rise. A backlash is stirring to changes backed by criminal reform efforts in the legislature and on the ballot.

In response to a court order to reduce prison populations, Governor Jerry Brown championed AB 109 in 2011. Under so-called realignment, certain low-level offenders were moved to county jails from state prisons. In many instances, overwhelmed local jailers were forced to release prisoners from their jails to make room.

Along came two ballot measures, Proposition 47 in 2014 and Proposition 57 in 2016, that downgraded a number of felonies to misdemeanors and fast-tracked the parole process for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Efforts to reform the justice system and reduce prison overcrowding prompted the law changes. Voters are sympathetic to efforts allowing prisoners to achieve rehabilitation. Voters passed both ballot initiatives despite major opposition from the public safety community.

The combination of laws, however, has the law enforcement community warning of a rise in crime with little ability to curb it. Property thefts, forgeries, frauds, illegal drug use, and more under $950 are labeled a consequence-free crime because few arrested for such crimes serve any time, and perpetrators are aware of the situation.

According to a release from the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, “Prop 47 has created a criminal culture where criminals know they face little, or far lesser, punishment for their crimes. Following the passage of AB 109, nearly 25 percent of jail space that could house criminals serving local sentences for property or violent crime is now occupied by those shifted from state prison to local jails to serve their time.”

Law enforcement officials reveal increases in crime as a result of the new laws, but it is the consequences on the street and in people’s lives that have changed the tone of the conversation. If you’re not convinced, take a look at neighborhood websites with constant chatter about break-ins and suspicious activity and how to set up alarm systems and security cameras.

In Sacramento a growing number of neighborhoods fed up with petty crime pooled money to hire private security for public streets. In the inland empire, vehicle thefts jumped from ninth in the nation to fifth in just one year. In the west San Fernando Valley, gang activity has increased 63 percent in two years. A number of California cities are joining in an effort called Taking Back Our Community, a coalition of local governments dedicated to public education and community advocacy surrounding the unintended adverse public safety impacts of recent changes to California’s criminal law.

This surge of activity recalls another time in California history when crime became a major policy and political issue. As noted California historian Kevin Starr wrote in his book, Coast of Dreams, California on the Edge, 1990–2003: “In 1980, California had fewer than 25,000 inmates in a dozen prisons. By January 1998 there were some 154,000 prisoners in 33 prisons.” Californians elected two governors in succession who were tough on crime. Republicans George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson occupied the corner office in the capitol for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

In his first inaugural address in 1983, Deukmejian said, “All the prosperity in the world will not make our society better if our people are threatened by crime. Therefore, it will be the highest priority during my administration to provide all the leadership I can to make California safe again.”

Wilson’s 1994 State of the State Address was one of many to pinpoint the crime issue. He called for get-tough measures against dangerous felons and repeat criminals. He also called for bills that would put three-repeat felons behind bars for good.

The legislature responded by passing a three-strikes law in March, but the people did them one better supporting a three-strikes ballot measure (Proposition 184) in November 1994 that received nearly 72 percent of the vote.

But the crime pendulum shifted with Propositions 47 and 57.

In a Sacramento Bee op-ed published a month before the November 2016 election in hopes of stopping Prop 57, which Wilson argued gutted the three-strikes law, he wrote, “The three-strikes initiative approved in 1994 and other sensible crime- control laws prevented millions of Californians from becoming crime victims. It would be gross dereliction of duty to discard laws that have provided us protection of such proven effectiveness.”

This time he was not as persuasive.

But now that the effects of the crime reform initiatives and state laws are being tallied, that pendulum may be moving back again. Will state politics follow?

Certainly California is in a different place today than three and four decades ago, but growing unease can be detected about the tax and crime issues that dominated politics in that era.

Let’s just say that Jerry Brown, rather than Doc Brown, would recognize the modern social-media terminology associated with the taxes and crime in California.

They’re trending.

ditor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Originally published in EUREKA, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution’s online magazine.

Should the LAPD use drones?


As reported by the L.A. Times:

For more than three years, a pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department was locked away, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.

Seattle police saw a similar backlash when they wanted to use the devices, grounding their drone program before it even took off. And recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s use of a drone has been criticized by activists as well as civilian oversight commissioners who want the agency to stop.

On Tuesday, the LAPD again waded into the heated debate, saying the department wanted to test the use of drones in a one-year pilot program.

Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to deploy the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates or police critics for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance and fears of military-grade, weaponized drones patrolling the skies. …

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