LAPPL Blog: The official blog of the Los Angeles Policy Protective League

The looming public safety crisis: If the cops aren’t safe, no one is

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/08/2009 @ 04:19 PM

Officers move into position to stand watch at the caskets of four slain Lakewood police officers before the December 8th memorial service at the Tacoma Dome. (Photo: Seattle Times)

Nothing reminds us more starkly that releasing felons early from prison sentences will result in tragedy than the murder of those responsible for upholding the law.  In March of this year, a parolee murdered four Oakland police officers.  Less than two weeks ago, a parolee from Arkansas who relocated to Washington brutally killed four officers there.  And, now scarcely a week after those murders, a parolee still wearing his monitoring bracelet gunned down a Penn Hill, Pennsylvania officer.

There is a looming public safety crisis in California – the release of tens of thousands of inmates from California prisons. On Monday, lawyers for California’s prison inmates filed court papers supporting a plan to reduce the prison population by nearly 40,000 over the next two years.  Republican legislators continue to oppose much of the plan.  In separate court filings, they have challenged the intervention of a three-judge federal panel, saying the court is overstepping its authority.

No one knows what will happen next.  The judges calling for lowering the prison population to reduce alleged overcrowding in the state’s 33 prisons could accept or reject the governor’s plan or schedule a hearing on it.  However, what is abundantly clear from the judges’ past comments is that they could care less about the danger to the average citizen from their plan.  It is the convicted felon who has the sweet spot in their hearts.

Thankfully, Governor Schwarzenegger and Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate have made it clear that they will appeal the panel’s final order, no matter what it says, to the Supreme Court.  They insist – and we agree – that the Prison Litigation Reform Act does not empower the panel to dictate the state’s prison policies.

The safety of the public should be paramount and the will of the people, as evidenced in this state through legislation such as “Three Strikes,” should be upheld by the courts. 

The governor, the legislature and courts all need to get on the same page on this issue. Early release of prisoners is dangerous and represents an unacceptable risk to society.  It shouldn’t take the continual murder of police officers to drive this point home.