California Voters Go Soft On Crime With Prop 47

Deputy Matt Deputy Sheriff
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Well, I feel like I was taken outside and beat down by a beloved family member. The pain I feel is more emotional than physical, although it is affecting me physically as well. The gullibility of California voters is hard to describe, but let me try.

Yesterday, California had on the ballot Proposition 47, titled “Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.” However, it was sold to the ignorant voting masses as “the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” Talk about slick sales and deceitful packaging! It is almost like they sold them more “hope and change.”

If you were to go to one of the “Vote Yes on Prop 47” websites, such as this one, you would come away with the impression that:

It’s a simple and common-sense idea, but a powerful one. This reform will improve public safety, reduce prison spending and invest hundreds of millions in K-12 schools, victim services, and mental health and drug treatment.

The idea? Change the lowest-level, nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors — and dedicate the savings to crime prevention. This reform maintains the current law for registered sex offenders and anyone with prior convictions for rape, murder or child molestation.

Hey, what crazy person would not be for simple, common-sense changes that make everything all better? Right? It is, after all, common-sense.

Except that everything in those two paragraphs is a lie, and instead CA voters once again bought a line of bull instead of reading the proposition itself. First of all, “petty theft” was already a misdemeanor. “Simple drug possession” of such innocent things as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and even GHB (the date rape drug) are now just misdemeanors, which means the offender now receives a citation and is sent on their merry way. But wait, it gets better. Those “non-violent” crimes also include burglary, and theft of firearms, pets or livestock, receiving stolen property, forgery and check fraud. But hey, it’s not like those crimes happen every day right?

What does prop 47 actually do, now that it has passed? Those crimes for which a person would have previously been arrested and taken to jail, now they receive a ticket and a court date.

Picture this if you will, you come home after working a long day. You park on the street and as you approach your front door, you find it has been kicked open. You cautiously enter your home to find it has been completely ransacked. As you search your home, the burglar is still inside and runs out the open front door. You call 911 and amazingly, a unit is in the area and catches the fleeing suspect. When they apprehend him, they find an unloaded gun on him. The gun belongs to you, and was the only thing stolen from your home. Thanks to the passage of this proposition, the suspect now will receive a ticket and be sent on his merry way with a court date about a month down the road.

Upon examination of the 11 page training bulletin my department provided today, my original scenario above was constructed wrong. Residential burglary, thankfully, is still a felony. That said, the following scenarios are however correct.

Picture this if you will, you work for a large box store. Every week, the same guy comes into your store, loads up a wide screen TV onto a shopping cart and leaves the store without paying.  You try to stop him, but company policy prevents you from using force. One of these many times, you call 911 like always, but this time the cops get there in time to catch the suspect leaving the store with the $900 television. They return the TV and they cite the suspect and he goes on his merry way. That used to constitute a felony in CA and would send him to jail, but now that is just a misdemeanor and he gets a ticket. Imagine that same suspect has a long history of similar behavior, and has been convicted of the same type of crimes in excess of three times. He still just gets a citation. That used to constitute Petty Theft with Priors, a felony, but that too is now just a misdemeanor.

How about this one? You come home from the shooting range and park in your driveway. It was a big day with friends and you had taken several guns with you. As you are unloading your car, you grab items and walk them into the house, then return to grab the next load. While you are inside the house, a guy passing by sees your open car and he takes a peek inside. He sees an unloaded handgun just lying there in the trunk, so he reaches in and grabs it. You come out just as he is taking your gun and fleeing. You call the cops, and by some stroke of luck, they are nearby and they catch him.  He gets a ticket and is sent on his way. 

Instead of your gun, because I know there are many people who cannot imagine owning a gun, suppose the same individual stole your family’s beloved pet dog, who happens to be a mutt you originally paid $40 for from the pound? Used to be a felony, now just a misdemeanor.

Had enough yet? Hold on to your hats because the ride isn’t over. Not only does this proposition affect all future arrests, but it is retroactive and now all prior arrests for the covered crimes will be reclassified, and those convictions will be resentenced which will likely result in the release of thousands of convicted criminals.

Now, doesn’t that make you feel so much safer? I can totally see how this law will enhance safety in our schools…

The question all of this should raise is who on earth supported this proposition?  Well, according to one of the websites pushing a yes vote, it was supported by “law enforcement and public safety” officials, which included a bunch of District Attorneys and a number of retired and “former” cops. I do not see a single, currently employed cop, not even a single one of the bleeding heart, liberal, democrat mayor appointed police chiefs, that supported this proposition. Also, a bunch of retired judges supported it, but not a single sitting judge. The list of supporters is long, but not surprisingly contains a large number of people that will directly benefit from its passage since the money saved by not incarcerating said criminals will now be redistributed directly to those same organizations.

Last night, as some of the election results rolled in, I was at work and I was sitting at dinner in a restaurant frequented by cops. I was there with two coworkers and a trainee. Behind me was a table where two cops from another local agency were sitting, and a couple tables away two more cops from another agency were also having dinner. There was a TV on the wall and the news was running through the election results. When the passage of prop 47 was announced, all eight of us audibly groaned in disbelief.

Our three separate conversations quickly became one, and we all expressed similar disgust because the people we are supposed to protect just passed a proposition that makes our job of protecting them that much more difficult. It is as if we are on the Titanic and we are watching the ship’s captain steer toward the iceberg while opening the engines to full ahead.

Hey, I have an idea how to lower crime rates substantially. We could just remove all crimes from the books. The drop in the crime rate over night would be HUGE! Think of all the money we could save if we just released everyone currently housed in some sort of correctional facility. Clearly I jest, but I had better shut up or some politician might throw that on the ballot for the next election.

In all seriousness, how are we supposed to protect people who willingly vote for things that make them far more likely to be victimized? I’ve never before wanted to take off my badge, drop it on the desk and walk out, but last night that seriously crossed my mind.