Will City Hall Become an Outpost for the OC DA’s Office?

Stephen Downing

The following paragraph was delivered as written (and emphasized) in two pre-election newsletters to 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price’s constituents as part of her multiple efforts to support a signature gathering campaign seeking to “address shortcomings of recently enacted Propositions 47 and 57.

“Propositions 47 (2014) and 57 (2016), which allow for early release of dangerous criminals and redefined crimes such as child sex trafficking, rape of an unconscious person, domestic violence, drive-by shootings, exploding an incendiary device with intent to injure, and assault of a police officer as "NON-VIOLENT" crimes.”

Councilwoman Price’s fear mongering and distortions appear to have had a positive effect upon her ability to get reelected and has now emboldened her to further undermine the will of the people and take the district attorney driven “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” to the full city council on April 17 for a resolution to support. (Joined by Mungo, who faces a runoff election).

The background information submitted to the full council is peppered with the same distortions, innuendo and dishonest cherry picking that has become the hallmark of argumentation from hardcore district attorneys who rode the “tough on crime” wave for 50 years with their emotional rhetoric, successful fear-based election campaigns and continuing failures to deliver on public safety.

As a young lawyer Price was hired into that hard core prosecutorial bubble almost 20 years ago and has since become a cog in one of the most dangerously corrupted wheels of criminal justice in the State – Orange County – whose district attorney, Tony Rackauckas took office in 1999 and, as described by OC Weekly reporter, R. Scott Moxley, “quickly used his power to protect rich corporate-executive pals from prosecutions for business frauds, disbanded the agency’s organized-crime unit and announced he couldn’t care less about pursuing political-corruption cases.”

The fact that the culture of the Orange County (OC) DA’s office has no respect for the rule of law is best demonstrated by looking at the details of the most recent 44-month-long OC DA snitch scandal that exposed unprecedented law enforcement cheating, police officers pleading the 5th amendment, prosecutors brazenly concealing evidence, extraordinary court rulings at both the trial and appellate levels that will be the subject of legal scholarship for decades to come.

This brought disastrous results that freed multiple gang-related murderers to our streets and prevented the worst mass shooter in the history of Orange Country from receiving the death penalty.

These are the kinds of people who are providing the leadership to reverse the past four years of smart criminal justice reform found in Propositions 47 and 57 after having nearly 50 years to prove themselves as protectors of the public’s safety.

They failed but yet they persist in distorting the facts in order to set back the recent “Smart on Crime” reforms in order to regain the full weight of the criminal justice hammer they have swung for decades.

This is a hammer that has done nothing for public safety, and everything for public safety unions. A hammer that has turned the criminal justice system into an out-of-balance-out –of-control institution that has pummeled too many in our society into a heap of recycled humanity barely able to survive, much less recover.

Here are the facts:

There is no evidence that Proposition 47 is responsible for an increase in crime. The only major study undertaken – released last month by the University of California, Irvine - found that Proposition 47 did not cause any increases in crime. But, it has helped to restore some humanity to our system – and it’s just getting started.

The DA’s led us to believe that violent criminals are “automatically” being released under Proposition 57. The fact is under the proposition every offender is required to be reviewed by a parole board, which must find a person does not pose a risk to the safety of our communities.

According to Thomas G. Hoffman, retired director of the California Department of Corrections, as of January, 80 percent of the parole hearings held under Proposition 57 have resulted in denials.

In other words, human beings are being used to evaluate other human beings without being pounded into the ground by the unrelenting, unseeing, unfeeling prosecutorial hammer that is the root cause of failure after failure within the criminal justice system.

It is time that our elected politicians listen to the people, not the prosecutor.

As our elected officials Suzie Price and Stacy Mungo should be working hard to implement the provisions of Propositions 47 and 57 – not opposing what they people have demanded they implement and support.

The city has already received grant money from Proposition 47 – it is time to spend it wisely and ask for more that can be applied to harm reduction, reintegration, reducing homelessness and insuring fairness – not moving backward as Price and Mungo suggest.

We need to rebalance the state’s public safety priorities to a new level – not regress. We cannot afford to continue the vast overspending on prisons, county jails and prison guards at the expense of our educational systems as has been the case since the 1980s.

Proposition 47 and 57 have provided a path that leads us away from the unsustainable incarceration rates that have crippled state and country budgets by applying smart strategies for achieving public safety.

Let’s not allow the fear mongers to stop smart approaches that are in their infancy in favor of returning to a failed 50-year status quo that serves the perverted interests of an old guard still living in the “tough on crime” cultural bubble.

The Long Beach City Council will vote on the Price/Mungo initiative on Tuesday, April 17. We hope that the rest of the Council - and our newly re-elected mayor – will not allow themselves to become a puppet of the prosecution but rather an even stronger advocate of the people.

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach (3rd district) and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.





Thanks for another well researched and enlightening piece Steve.

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