It’s becoming an epidemic. It seems almost each week another police officer is killed.
The sound of bagpipes seems omnipresent as, one by one, the brave men and women who wake up each morning, don their blue uniforms and hit the streets as the last line of defense for our communities are laid to their early rests.
Whittier police officer Keith Boyer spent 26 years serving others. And then, last month, on a routine traffic stop – the kind he’d performed a thousand times before – he was executed.
This is a tragedy. And an all-too-common one as we in the 21st Senate District well know. We lost one of our own just last year when Sgt. Steve Owen was similarly slain in Lancaster.
These men share more than meets the eye, though.
They saw their tragic ends serving and protecting their neighbors. Both family men, they also made time to serve charitable causes in their communities.
But they are both not only victims of heinous and heartless acts; they are also political casualties in the new, soft-on-crime California they spent — and lost — their lives protecting.
Through a host of “reduce prison population at any cost” measures, our governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have partnered to release nearly 50,000 criminals from our jails and prisons.
Together, Assembly Bill 109, Proposition 47 and the newly approved Proposition 57 have not only released thousands of our worst lawbreakers – with offenses ranging from serial theft to rape, gang crimes and human trafficking – but also made it nearly impossible to lock them up in the future.
Since the passing of AB 109 in 2012, violent and property crimes have skyrocketed in our state and police are now forced to play “catch-and-release” with criminals who would have previously been bound for the jailhouse.
Enter Michael Mejia, the known gang member and career criminal who gunned down one of Whittier’s finest last month. Like so many other dangerous criminals, Mejia would have been behind bars that fateful day were it not for the governor’s dangerous take on public safety.
On probation since his release from prison last April, Mejia was arrested five times between the release and Boyer’s shooting Feb. 20. Prior to Brown’s signing of AB 109 in 2011, each Mejia arrest would have landed him back in jail.
But in today’s California, criminals like Mejia are simply released back onto the streets to commit more crimes.
In the 21st District, we’ve seen the impacts of Brown-era public safety too. Sgt. Steve Owen was gunned down by another career criminal who would have been locked up for his crimes were it not for the new laissez faire law enforcement under AB 109.
Thanks to these policies, though, Trenton Lovell, who shot Sgt. Owen last October, was instead walking the streets, free to commit the burglary that set in motion the events ending with another officer laid to rest and a community reeling from the loss.
Released from prison in 2014, Lovell – like Mejia – would have been returned to prison earlier that year when he was arrested for injuring another person while driving drunk. Instead, under Brown’s AB 109 “catch-and-release” program, he was referred to a drunk-driving program rather than a jail.
Last year, Assemblyman Tom Lackey and I introduced a bill to clean up some of these issues. Assembly Bill 2287 would have given police the tools needed to get many of these violators — like Lovell and Mejia — off the streets. Unfortunately, the majority party refused to hear the bill.
Our state is already reeling from the first two rounds of prisoner release under AB 109 and Prop. 47. Crime is on the rise and some of our finest citizens have already lost their lives as a result.
Proposition 57, the campaign for which Gov. Jerry Brown donated nearly $5 million last year, is another step down the path of negligent public safety policy. It has yet to be fully implemented.
As it takes full effect, I fear we’ll see more and more crime in our streets. More and more criminals on the loose.
And more and more, there will be a need for conscientious legislators to do what we can to clean up the messes of Gov. Brown’s rash and reckless policies.
Sen. Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District in the California Legislature and lives in Santa Clarita.