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Op-Ed submitted by Joe Vinatieri, City of Whittier Mayor and Beatriz Dieringer, President of the Los Angeles County Division of the League of California Cities and Council Member in the City of Rolling Hills
Los Angeles County is now under Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols (PARP) that eliminate money bail for most misdemeanors and felonies. While some praise this shift as a significant leap toward justice, we caution the challenges that come with zero bail, given the lack of information sharing and absence of provisions to keep suspects off the streets after multiple arrests.
First, there’s been a common refrain that bail is unfair to suspects with fewer resources. Yet, there’s cash bail required for serious and violent felonies; a recognition that the more serious the crime, the higher the balance must be weighted toward victims’ rights and public safety over the suspect’s rights. Bail is not about who has money and can afford bail – it’s reflective of the type of crime committed. Unfortunately, the cite-and-release provisions allow for a blanket, zero-bail release on a variety of offenses that are genuine threats to public safety.
For instance, someone who is trespassing on a battered women’s shelter would be a cite-and-release even though the trespasser is likely an imminent threat to safety. Other examples of book-and-release crimes include burglary of businesses and car thefts, crimes with a real, direct impact on your feelings of safety in your community. A book-and-release is now also required for anyone accused of manufacturing or possessing a controlled substance with an intent to sell – so, when you call to report drug dealing, don’t be surprised when you see the same person on the street within a couple of hours. It’s not that a police officer didn’t do their job, or that your City doesn’t care – it’s that the new PARP requires the accused be released regardless of how many times they’ve been arrested for the same crime.
Secondly, there are a number of real-world examples of how zero-bail is flawed. During the County’s “pilot” zero-bail program, at the height of the pandemic, the City of Whittier was forced to release a suspect after an online magistrate review. Just hours later that suspect assaulted and injured a police officer while responding to an unrelated call. As terrible as that experience was, at least during the COVID zero-bail rules, officers were still able to book and hold suspects who had committed second crimes after being released once on zero-bail. This new schedule makes no allowances for such repeat arrests. Recently the Yolo County District Attorney’s office released the results of their own foray into zero-bail. Their own statistics, available on their website, yoloda.org, show that zero bail policies increased crime in every category.
PARP increases strain on law enforcement resources already stretched to their limits. Prior to zero-bail, the Court had a bail schedule as required by the California Constitution, Article 1, Section 12, to ensure that an arrestee who posts such bail will attend her/his court appearances and not endanger public safety if released. Under PARP, most crimes do not provide for presumptive bail or a magistrate review prior to release. PARP doesn’t consider the many circumstances in which releasing an arrestee, without requiring monetary bail, would endanger a victim or members of the public. In these cases, to obtain a court hearing to request approval of bail, law enforcement must submit a written application to the Court within two hours, placing an undue burden on police personnel who are preparing police reports and initiating investigations in order to present the case to prosecutors who must meet the statutorily required 48-hour filing deadline after arrest.
PARP doesn’t allow for any commonsense alternatives to money bail, either. For instance, arrestees could be required to stay away from alleged victims and witnesses or mandated to report to work or substance abuse treatment during the period before their arraignment – but this is not considered under PARP. At minimum, Los Angeles County needs to invest in comprehensive pretrial services, not the least of which is a system of information sharing so law enforcement has real-time information in the field about whether a suspect has previously been released with a citation for similar crimes in other jurisdictions.
There are legitimate concerns about how cash bail impacts suspects who should be considered innocent until proven guilty, as well as multiple consent decrees related to the number of people in County jail and State prisons, all of which PARP is attempting to address. But instead of one-size-fits-all zero-bail policies that leave law enforcement with fewer tools to prevent crime and protect victims, a more balanced approach should be considered, one that addresses the flaws in the previous system, improves the current system and strives to actually deliver on the prevention, treatment and recovery programs that were supposed to prevent crimes in the first place.
Joe Vinatieri is Mayor in the City of Whittier; Beatriz (Bea) Dieringer is President of the Los Angeles County Division of the League of California Cities and Council Member in the City of Rolling Hills.
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