The Los Angeles County supervisors voted last month to approve the formation of a commission to dig deeper into how best to rehabilitate low-level criminals while also protecting communities after public outcries over rising crime rates. The people that were the most in favor of the formation of the commission included mayors, police chiefs, and businesses leaders from across the county’s 88 cities who said while such reforms such as AB 109, as well as voter-approved Propositions 47 and 57, were forged with intention to save money by alleviating overcrowded prisons, there were no safety nets in place to steer low-level offenders into drug treatment, anger management and mental health services. As a result, they say drug use, homelessness, and related crimes all have increased. Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell stated,
While developed with good intentions, the legislation may have created unintended consequences and places our first-responders at risk. We have an obligation to be the best we could be. It’s not about politics but about public safety.
Groups opposed to the formation of the commission cautioned the board that forming a commission that favored law enforcement tips the balance away from criminal justice reform. The catalyst for the formation of the commission on public safety began in February, when Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn called for an investigation into the fatal shooting of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer by suspect Michael Christopher Mejia. Mejia, 26, is a known gang member who also is suspected of shooting a relative of his before shooting Boyer. Mejia was in and out of prison several times and, at the time of Officer Boyer’s shooting, was released and under parole. His release was seen by the public as a breach in the provisions of AB 109, an early release initiative signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.
The commission would be made up of members of law enforcement, business leaders, and community leaders. Hopefully, the commission’s findings will lead to a better balance between public safety and criminal justice reforms.