Report: Calif. Law Enforcement Officials Show Resistance to Prop. 47
California law enforcement officials have shown "disappointing" resistance to a ballot measure approved by voters a year ago that aimed to reduce the state's prison and jail populations, according a report by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports (Poston, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/10).
Background on Prop. 47
Proposition 47, which passed in November 2014, changed six "non-violent, non-serious" crimes from felony charges to misdemeanors, including:
- Property crimes worth less than $950, such as bad checks, forgery, fraud, grand theft, receiving stolen property and shoplifting; and
- Possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.
An independent legislative analysis found that Prop. 47 could save the state several hundred million dollars. Of the money saved:
- 65% will be earmarked for community-based mental health and drug treatment services;
- 25% will be earmarked for education; and
- 10% will be earmarked for crime victim services (California Healthline, 11/5/14).
The report found significant variation in how law enforcement agencies have adapted to Prop. 47.
Among those showing resistance to the measure, the report said, "Some are making irresponsible and inaccurate statements linking Prop. 47 and crime," adding, "Others are falsely claiming that they are no longer able to arrest people for petty crime or that a misdemeanor is not a 'real' penalty."
According to the report, minor drug and property crime arrests:
- Increased by nearly 80% at the Fresno County Sheriff's Department; and
- Decreased by 43% at the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
The report noted that variations in increases and decreases of low-level arrests this year reflect the priorities of agencies and individual officers.
Meanwhile, the report commended efforts by Los Angeles County prosecutors to adapt to Prop. 47. For example:
- Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has convened a task force to bolster jail diversion efforts among those with mental health issues; and
- City Attorney Mike Feuer is convening stakeholders to develop a diversion program to allow for drug treatment in place of prosecution, among other things.
According to the report, law enforcement agencies' willingness to adjust to Prop. 47 will determine its long-term success in reducing incarceration rates ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/10).
Among other things, the report recommended that state and local policymakers:
- Develop programs that leverage incentives over the threat of jail time;
- Encourage local criminal justice and health agencies to focus on solutions and partnerships to meet community health and safety goals;
- Give law enforcement officials more options, particularly when dealing with individuals in need of mental health or other health care, such as substance use treatment; and
- Use health funding systems to support other services (ACLU of California report, November 2015).