Menifee police chief report rails state prisoner ‘Realignment’ measures; sees crime increase

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Menifee’s new police Chief Pat Walsh informed the Menifee City Council Wednesday, Oct. 2, that area police chiefs are finding crimes of all nature have increased due to Senate Bill 268, Proposition 47 and Assembly Bill 109 passed since 2009.

Walsh gave a detailed report on the issue, including in-depth history of each measure which were initially designed to reduce the growing state prison population but he said has had an adverse effect on the area and state crime rates. He recommended the council support area police chiefs who are proposing to modify some of the measures that will be passed on to the governor and state legislature in the near future.

He summed up the effect the measures have had on the crime rate and the number of former prisoners now on the streets, saying that many are still engaging in criminal activity and leaving the responsibility to the counties and cities to house the recidivists.

“Realignment puts prisoner responsibility at the county level instead of the state level,” Walsh said. “Many counties, like Riverside County, were already at a stress point when dealing with prisoner populations. While pushing that population from state prisons to county jails helps solve the problem for the state, it just creates a different problem that the counties must address.

“Whereas, in Riverside County, there is already a strain on county jail capacity, the net result is more ‘catch and release’ of offenders, and communities that are less safe. Indeed, in 2014, Riverside County had the highest number of early releases in the state. Put simply, while releasing ‘low level’ offenders sooner (or not jailing them at all) is better than releasing higher level offenders, it is still a step backward.

“Realignment weakened the parole and post-release system. Before the realignment occurred, inmates released from prison would be placed on parole and supervised by a state parole agent. After realignment, county probation agents would supervise parolees for certain realigned crimes instead of state parole agencies. This puts considerable stress on county probation officers who in many counties, including Riverside, were not trained or equipped to deal with more serious offenders previously supervised by state parole agents.

“Realignment created specific safety issues for communities. For example, in February, Terrence Anthony Hawkins, 37, was booked on suspicion of murder. He is also accused of violating his post release community supervision, or felony probation, under the terms of AB 109, stemming from a previous conviction. Similarly, in 2017, despite having multiple convictions and gang affiliations, Michael C. Mejia was named as the suspect in the fatal shootings of Whittier police officers Keith Boyer and Roy Torres.

“Many law enforcement agencies in California blame AB 109 for an increase in crime at the local level, which in the case of Hawkins and Mejia, can be violent.

“There is some data to show that AB 109 has resulted in an increase in certain crimes. Although a professor at UC Irvine showed a lack of impact on violent crime, studies performed on realignment have shown that communities are experiencing an increase in certain crimes, including property crime and automobile thefts.

“Although there are no published figures about parole violations that occur on the county level, the Public Policy Institute of California did discover that the re-arrest rates and reconvictions rates within the state stayed at roughly the same levels as they were before AB 109 was signed into law. In other words, recidivism did not change as a result of Realignment.

“Last, and most important, when AB 109 was passed, it reduced the amount of time offenders spent in jail from one year to six months for a true parole violation. Parolees were also eligible for release after completing just 50% of their overall sentence,” Walsh said in his report.

The council took Walsh’s report under advisement.

Walsh is the new police chief hired by the city to take command of the city’s new municipal police department, which is expected to take over community policing from the contracted Riverside County Sheriff in July 2020.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.