Despite a lack of public support, Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio are persisting in their attempts to destroy public pension systems throughout the state of California. The State Attorney General just released Title and Summaries on their two latest pension-assault initiatives, although Reed and DeMaio they have said they will only circulate one.

This will be the third time in the past two years that Reed has gone through this process, and it remains to be seen if these initiatives will succumb to the same fate of his past two attempts: uncirculated.  Reed acknowledged there is no public clamor for his initiatives, telling Jon Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee that he needed to conduct polling to determine public support for the initiatives, but that he would need 60% support to begin circulation and then he would then solicit $2-3 million to pay signature gatherers to circulate the initiative.  He said he would need to raise $25-30 million to mount a statewide campaign.

It is no wonder why voters don’t want to follow Reed’s lead on public pensions, given the disaster his 2012 pension initiative created in San Jose.  That initiative led to a soaring increase in the city’s crime, combined with the exodus of hundreds of police officers and other public employees.  Ironically, only days before the Attorney General’s title/summary, the San Jose City Council reached agreements with all of its employee groups to scrap Reed’s 2012 pension initiative. The city rightly decided that the millions it had paid in legal fees—and the millions it agreed to pay public employee unions for the legal fees they incurred challenging Reed’s initiative —was enough waste of taxpayer dollars.  Reached for comment after this action, Reed expressed his dismay that the city had decided not to waste additional millions trying to overturn 65 years of California Supreme Court case law on vested rights.

The California Attorney General just released Title and Summaries have been released on the two Chuck Reed/Carl DeMaio pension initiatives.  The current Reed initiatives would, amongst other changes:

Eliminate defined benefit retirement for new public employees hired after January 1, 2015, and does not require employers to provide new employees with any retirement at all.

Takes away disability benefits for police, firefighters and other workers injured in the line of duty and unable to return to work,  since the basis on which these benefits are provided (defined benefit plans)  are eliminated and  no replacement plan exists that can provide those benefits.

The initiative prohibits commonly accepted pension financing of closed pension systems and affecting the financial stability of current pension systems.

A just released poll (conducted after the title and summary was released) demonstrates the lack of support for Reed/DeMaio and their initiatives. That poll showed neither initiative garnered more than 42% support—and opposition at 42% to one initiative and 40% to the other.  The undecided voters are further bad news for Reed/DeMaio, as initiatives usually lose undecided voters when faced with a well-funded opposition campaign—which there will be should either initiative qualify for the ballot.

Contrary to Reed’s claims, taxpayers and public employees do not benefit when a pension plan is closed.  A recent study from Canada debunked the claim that Canadian taxpayers and other stakeholders would benefit from converting public sector DB plans to DC plans. It cited studies and experience of US public employers to make the case.  “[A]after examining the literature on the experience in other jurisdictions and modelling what the ramifications would be in converting a large Canadian DB plan to DC, we found that none of the stakeholders would ultimately be better off.”

While Reed scrambles to find money to fund his third attempt to qualify a statewide pension initiative, the lessons of Phoenix and Cincinnati loom large.  In both those cities, well-funded, out-of-state interests tried to alter drastically those cities’ pension systems through ballot initiatives.  Each time, the initiatives were soundly defeated by an opposition campaign of citizens, public employees, and public officials who exposed the numerous flaws and unsound public policy in the initiatives.  We at ADDA are going to vigorously engage in this fight should Reed circulate his initiative – by regularly educating our members so you can educate your family, friends and neighbors, and by joining other public safety employee groups to mobilize against this initiative.

If you want to learn more now about pensions and get the facts, please visit a great website called Let’s Talk Pensions run by Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of more than 1.6 million Californians representing public employees and retirees.

For factual information, please read our five previous blogs that detail the pension issue and the financial disaster that Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio want to create in California: (1) One Pension Scheme Shelved – New Ballot Measure Planned, (2) Attorney General: Reed initiative eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension benefits,  (3) The destruction Chuck Reed wants to bring to California, (4) Attention Shoppers: Don’t Sign that Misleading Pension Petition!, (5) Your Pension is Under Attack and (6) Fuzzy Math Continues to Drive Public Pension Hysteria.

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The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

[By Marc Debbaudt]

As supporters of Prop 47 furiously try to convince the public of their very dubious claim that the initiative has resulted in monetary savings, Californians have suffered a myriad of other real costs as a result of this measure. Prop 47 certainly does not create any clear benefits to society, but only to drug addicts and thieves. The claim there are savings is a monumental misconception.

The numerical value of the real costs of this policy that has been inflicted upon Californians through a misleading initiative is never calculated. The ignored costs range from a spike in violent crime and property crimes, increased rates of recidivism, and an abrupt decrease in the population of participants in drug and mental health treatment facilities throughout Southern California.

The physical and psychological costs of the increase in property and violent crimes on citizens, store owners, and victims have no price tag.  As Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell recently expressed, there have been 30 homicides since the passage of Prop 47 by individuals who otherwise would have been off the streets and in the County jail for previous crimes they had committed which now fall under Prop 47.  That’s real trauma in the lives of decent, law-abiding human beings. 30 victims, and their families, as well as those who were forced to witness inexcusable violence. All of these pay a dear price that can’t be monetarily quantified-all because of Prop 47.

The deceitfully named Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act is having a substantial negative impact on society throughout the City and County of Los Angeles in both the associated costs of crime and its psychological costs. Crime will undoubtedly continue to rise due to a lack of proper punishments and incentives to make individuals abide by the law. Some criminals have gleefully told reporters that Prop 47 has incentivized them to continue to commit crimes. In a Washington Post story appropriately headlined, “A virtual get-out-of-jail-free card“, one thief in San Bernardino County, who had been caught shoplifting, even bragged about carrying a calculator to ensure he did not exceed the $950 limit that would make his crime a felony.

The toll of crime on people victimized does not end when the crime is completed. When a criminal steals property, takes an identity to commit a theft, or forges checks, the victim suffers a loss of personal privacy and security that lingers and does not evaporate. It takes valuable time to contact the authorities, the banks, creditors, and businesses. What is the cost of that?

Prop 47 has also failed in its stated purpose of rehabilitating drug addicts. Statewide, the number of participants in both mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities has plummeted. The individuals that are committing crimes that fall under Prop 47 are now misdemeanors and are no longer required (by court order) to enroll in drug treatment programs or do time in county jail. Therefore, there is no longer a metaphorical hammer being held over their head to ensure they attend and successfully complete these programs to be effectively reintegrated into society. The social engineers claimed it was about rehabilitation, but there is no rehabilitation. Large sums of money are being spent on these drug treatment programs that no one will attend because there is no incentive to attend and complete the programs.

In seeking criminal justice, three overriding concepts are considered: rehabilitation, punishment, and deterrence. Punishment and deterrence are now anathema to the those who tinker with public safety and came up with Prop 47.  Anything other than rehabilitation is characterized as an inhuman, uncompassionate response to crime-never mind that while incarcerated criminals are not committing crimes on the streets. Under Prop 47, those same criminals are let loose on our streets.

With all of the evident negative consequences and deceptions that have been put forth by Prop 47, I am left wondering why this reckless policy was ever advanced.  What is the true goal? Anarchy? One can only wonder given the clear negative impact on the safety and wellbeing of our community and the victimization of the citizens that is a direct result of Prop 47.  The toll of Proposition 47 continues to climb, and it is not simply a monetary cost. It is a real cost on lives that no one wants to discuss.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

[By Marc Debbaudt]

I have written extensively on the impacts on public safety from Proposition 47. I am concerned that those impacts are about to be exacerbated by the Los Angeles Police Department’s plan to shut down its Valley narcotics testing lab and shrink its staff of professional analysts. The abrupt and quite closure of the lab will threaten public safety as it will lead to court delays and result in countless suspected narcotics traffickers going free while awaiting criminal charges.

Without the narcotics lab located a few steps away from the San Fernando Valley’s main courthouse and evidence locker, suspected narcotics will have to be sent by courier to the LAPD’s main lab east of Downtown. It could take days to obtain test results with the proposed smaller staff of analysts at the distant site.

Time is critical in drug cases because prosecutors from the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office need to get timely test results on suspected narcotics so they determine the criminal charges to file. Currently, it is a race against the clock during the constitutionally mandated 48-hour period during which charges must be brought or the defendant is released from custody. When the latter occurs, prosecutors must file new cases and request arrest warrants.

In response to the Proposition 47 crime wave, the LAPD has proposed to reallocate officers to neighborhoods that have seen the largest increases in crime. The move to close the crime lab and reduce staff means that officers who might be assigned to deal with the Proposition 47 crime increases will now be tasked with tracking down and re-arresting defendants who had to be released because the drug test results were not available after the initial arrest.

The LAPD’s proposal to shutter the Valley lab will make the jobs of police, criminalists and prosecutors all the more difficult.

After weighing the negative impacts that closing this vital lab will have on the community, officers and prosecutors, I hope that the LAPD will reconsider its decision and find less harmful ways to find savings.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of District Attorneys. He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

[By Marc Debbaudt]

Savings, what savings? That was the first thought that came to mind upon reading the recent Los Angeles Times editorial musing about the “savings” that supposedly will follow on the heels of Prop 47 and how these “savings” should be spent. The Times editorial perfectly captured the naiveté of the Editorial writers, and their complete lack of understanding of criminals and the criminal justice system. There are no “savings.” Instead, all Prop 47 did was shift the costs and pass the buck.

First, the editorial claims that savings followed Prop 47’s reduction of felonies to misdemeanors attributes savings to fewer felony cases handled by the District Attorney’s office. To understand their contention you need to know that the LA City Attorney’s Office and nine other City Attorney Officers in this County handle misdemeanor cases in their respective cities, and the LA District Attorney’s Office handles misdemeanor prosecutions for the rest of Los Angeles County. In fact, Deputy District Attorneys are being reassigned to handle the increase in the misdemeanor caseload throughout the County as a result of Prop 47. Thus, contrary to the apparent belief of the LA Times, the crimes committed by those before Prop 47 are not only continuing to be committed but in increasing numbers. The big difference is that now they are charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies.

Second, the costs to prosecute these crimes haven’t disappeared. To the extent they are being prosecuted by City Attorneys, the costs have just been shifted from the County District Attorney to local agencies. That is not a savings, instead that is a shift of costs from the County to the City. The costs are the costs of Judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks, court reporters, jurors, bailiffs, transportation from jails to courts, etcetera. The costs don’t change in terms of courtroom time by virtue of a crime being designated as a misdemeanor or a felony.

The claim of “savings” as a result of fewer criminals going to jail likewise reflects a misunderstanding of the role of jail in the criminal justice system. Jails have primarily been a place for pre-trial detention of those facing felony charges, not the service of a sentence. Typically a sentenced felon goes to state prison, not jail; and a sentenced misdemeanant goes to jail, not prison. Under the other stellar piece of social engineering-realignment – has changed with many felons no longer serving their sentence in state prison, but in a county jail. And with Prop 47’s reducing felonies to misdemeanors, that has increased the burden on the jail system. Previously, those held pre-trial with bail set, instead of being released on their own recognizance, were held because they posed a danger to public safety and/or were not likely not to return to court unless they posted bail. With Prop 47, those same criminals who would have been held pending trial for a felony are now simply not booked into custody, or if booked, released before arraignment because the charge has been transformed into a misdemeanor.

The reasons those facing misdemeanors are not held in custody are multifold. First, if a person is in custody when arraigned on a misdemeanor, they must be brought to trial within 30 days of arraignment. Trials are rarely set on the last possible day they can commence, but instead about ten days before the day trial will commence to make sure everything is lining up and the defense is ready-in short, an impractical 20 days between arraignment and trial. In addition, holding a person pre-trial on a misdemeanor uses up most, if not all, of the custody time that would be imposed upon conviction. Of course, this starkly contrasts with the 85 day period from the time of initial arraignment of the complaint to the last day for trial for those accused of felonies.

Once again, the actual costs of not holding in custody the now Prop 47 misdemeanor defendants is spread elsewhere-to the community, where individuals and businesses bear the real cost because criminals are returned to the street to commit property crimes against them. Judging by the increasing property crime rate, it is obvious this is exactly what is happening despite some who claim it is too early to know why. Those criminals that would have remained in custody facing a felony trial are now rampaging through our communities, committing their misdemeanor crimes with near impunity.

As I detailed in my Los Angeles Time op-ed, Prop 47 was deliberately and misleadingly titled the “Safe Streets and Schools Act”. It had nothing to do with making our schools “safer” and it darn sure hasn’t made our streets safer. Apparently the Times believes we have imported a new group of criminals from some vortex to commit the crimes that were formerly felonies before Prop 47. However, reality suggests the same criminals are committing the same crimes but in increasing numbers-thus Prop 47 merely shifted the costs associated with housing a defendant in a penal institution to the costs incurred by real victims, businesses, and other prosecuting agencies of these exact same crimes. The hope that in the world of misdemeanor sentences these criminals will be held even marginally accountable for their crimes is fading.

One has to wonder how high the costs to crime victims must climb for state voters to regain their senses and fix the mess they created when they imposed this reckless sweeping social change to our criminal justice system.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles deputy district attorneys.

[By Michele Hanisee]

Voters support reform of California’s death penalty. It has become ineffective because of waste, delays, and inefficiencies.  Fixing it will save California taxpayers millions of dollars every year, assure due process protections for those sentenced to death and promote justice for murder victims and their families. Death row inmates have murdered over 1000 victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers; 294 victims were raped and/or tortured.  It’s time California reformed our death penalty process so it works.

On October 20, 2015, the California Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016 was submitted for the November 2016 ballot.

This initiative will ensure justice for both victims and defendants by:

  • Expanding the pool of available defense attorneys.
  • Requiring that a defendant who is sentenced to death is appointed a lawyer at the time of sentence, rather than waiting for years just to get a lawyer.
  • Allowing the Department of Corrections to house condemned inmates in less costly housing with fewer special privileges.
  • Requiring that condemned inmates work and pay restitution to victims.
  • Allowing CDCR to enact an execution protocol without having to reply to every question or suggestion by any citizen who sends them a letter.
  • Giving the California Supreme Court oversight over the state agency that manages death penalty appeals.

California’s death row includes serial killers, cop killers, child killers, mass murderers, and hate crime killers. The death penalty system is broken, but it can and should be fixed.

You can learn more by going to www.deathpenaltyreform.com. On their website you will be able to sign up for updates, join the coalition.

Your contribution is critical to our efforts to reform the criminal justice system. Please contribute and support our efforts!

Follow us and share our work on social media. Like Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to be part of our community and to receive regular updates about important issues surrounding our efforts.  We strongly believe that progress will be made when more people learn about the facts behind our efforts to fix the death penalty. Please join our efforts by sharing, retweeting the campaigns posts and sign up here to receive regular updates on the campaign.

To read my previous blog, Years of Deliberate Foot-dragging by California State Officials on Death Penalty Ends with Announcement of One Drug Protocol, click here.

Michele Hanisee is Vice President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA). She can be contacted at mhanisee@laadda.com.   The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA)

[By Anthony Colannino]

It has been said that the problem with being a hammer is that every problem begins to look like a nail. The same can be said for lawyers and laws. And like hammers, laws are blunt instruments whose destructive capacity equals or exceeds their constructive uses. These two premises are the concerns I have with ADDA President Mark Debbaudt’s proposition that the millions of pages of existing prohibitions and regulations – both statutory and common law – are insufficient to regulate and control the use of drones. Knee-jerk reactions that “something has to be done” because of anecdotal claims invariably tend to the destructive rather than the constructive.

Just look at Mr. Debbaudt’s title: “Proliferation of drones requires swift and powerful response.” Sounds ominous. In standard rhetorical fashion, Mr. Debbaudt then constructs his parade of horribles to justify the need for “swift and powerful response.” (Tellingly, it’s a short procession consisting of just three anecdotes: one small drone once flew over a fire, one even smaller drone once fell onto a little girl on a street and the FAA has discovered that with three times more drones in the sky, pilots are now seeing drones three times as often.)

Based on this, what should that swift and powerful response look like according to Mr. Debbaudt? New laws! According to Mr. Debbaudt, “It’s going to take registration. It’s going to take education. And, above all, it’s going to take the strongest possible civil and criminal penalties against people who break the rules or who fail to register their drones.” Therefore, “public safety agencies and organizations and [sic] support any and all local, state and federal ordinances and laws that would impose penalties against people who misuse drones or fly them irresponsibly.”

Really? Mr. Debbaudt speaks for all public safety agencies and organizations? (As President, Mr. Debbaudt doesn’t even speak for the ADDA any more than I, as its Secretary.) Really? All public safety agencies and organizations support “any and all local, state and federal ordinances and laws that would impose penalties against people who misuse drones or fly them irresponsibly?”

Regardless of the law’s potential for unintended consequences? Regardless of the law’s collateral effects of stunting innovation, limiting personal freedom and creating a minefield of regulations that can turn even the most law-abiding individual into an unwitting criminal? We really support “any law” that imposes the “strongest possible civil and criminal penalties” on someone who’s hobby drone accidentally flies over another’s unmarked and undeveloped rural vacation property as did the proposed law that Mr. Debbaudt laments Governor Brown vetoed?

Let’s face it; all the good laws were written over five-thousand years ago. Don’t murder, don’t assault, don’t steal, don’t … you get the idea. It is a unique mental condition of the ruling class that believes new technologies are, in some way, incapable of fitting within the framework of existing laws and that only they, through the creation of even more complex legal codes, can correct this imbalance in the force.

Before we construct a new hammer, let’s examine what already exists in our already overly-bloated toolbox.

Anthony Colannino is Secretary of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys . He can be contacted at acolannino@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles deputy district attorneys.

[By Kermit Alexander]

California’s death penalty system needs to change.

The Death Penalty is not an easy topic to discuss. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a perfect world where we did not have to worry about protecting our family and loved ones from evil? However, we do! As many of our friends and family know, my mother, sister and two nephews were murdered in 1984 in a home invasion murder for hire. An 18-year-old rolling 60’s Crips gang member, Tiqueon Cox, along with two accomplices entered my mother Ebora’s home, and shot her in the head while she was drinking her morning cup of coffee. He then executed my 24-year-old sister, Dietra, while she was still sleeping in her bed and then in an effort not to leave any witnesses, murdered my two nephews 8 and 12 while they slept. The trigger man was hired to carry out an execution.

The irony is that these killers went to the wrong address – yep, they made a mistake – couldn’t read the correct address. They had been paid by a bar owner to kill a young lady who lived down the street. She had been tragically injured in his night-club and instead of paying out a lawsuit – he wanted to eliminate one.

The man that committed that murder has been on death row for over 27 years. He will celebrate another birthday on December 1st. He has exhausted all of his appeals on both the state and federal levels. The only barrier to justice at this point is California’s failure to hold this killer accountable.

The State of California promised the residents and the victims that this man’s crimes met the criteria necessary to impose death. The jury found him guilty of his crime and backed the recommendation for execution. The judge sentenced this killer to die in California’s death chamber and yet, he still waits to receive an execution date.

While on death row, this killer has continued to operate as a shot caller being classified the most dangerous man on death row. In 2001, Tiqueon Cox attempted a violent takeover of the Super Max Adjustment Center at San Quentin. His goal was not to escape but to “kill as many guards as possible.” He is also responsible for repeated assaults on fellow inmates and correctional officers.

As with many on death row, Cox, is the perfect example of the need to have a death penalty. What greater sentence could there be for a guy who walks into a grandmother’s house and executes her and her family, by mistake, for a mere $3500. His disregard for human life and values both before and during prison is justification for setting an execution date. It is sad that the victims must continue to fight for their right to see justice.

Justice is not easy – it is a difficult yet necessary part of our society. And Justice isn’t gentle. But Justice denied – isn’t Justice.

Capital punishment was enacted and reinstated to remind criminals that if you act in a violent way and show no remorse – don’t expect society to coddle you. The crimes committed by the people who murdered my family are not in question; their appeals are not in question – only the protocol by which we execute has come under question. Justice isn’t easy and Justice isn’t gentle. But justice denied – isn’t justice.

However, California’s death penalty has become ineffective because of waste, delays and inefficiencies. A coalition of district attorneys, law enforcement and victim’s rights advocates like me are proposing a statewide ballot initiative to change the death penalty system in California.

The California Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016 would fix the broken death penalty system. The initiative would change the lengthy appeals process by expanding the pool of appellate attorneys and appointing lawyers to the cases at time of sentencing, reform death row housing and restitution and reform the appointment of appellate counsel and agency oversight.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney, Mike Ramos, may have said it best when he said, “California’s 730-plus death row inmates have murdered more than 1,000 people, including 229 children and 43 police officers. I stand with the victims and their families to unite for changes in California’s death penalty system.”

Justice isn’t easy and justice isn’t gentle but justice denied isn’t Justice.

Kermit Alexander, who was a defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers from 1963 to 1969, is a death penalty reform advocate.

[Marc Debbaudt]

There’s no question that small drones serve some legitimate purposes.

They can perform tasks that are dangerous for pilots of manned aircraft, such as powerline and smokestack inspections. They can film movie scenes that can’t be filmed by helicopters. And, for the average person, they can be a fun toy to play with.

But therein lies the problem: One person’s fun is another person’s danger. In August, a hobby drone forced a LAPD helicopter to take evasive action while searching for a suspect in Hollywood.  Drones are a real danger every time the LAPD deploys one of their 17 helicopters.

FAA statistics show that pilots have reported almost three times as many drone sightings in the first eight months of 2015 than they reported in all of 2014. Many of the reports were around busy airports such as LAX. It is not just police helicopters that are in danger; drones have also interfered with aircraft fighting wildfires, and medical helicopters. If a bird can damage an aircraft engine or windshield, we can only imagine what a drone could do. The results could be deadly.

Drones also can endanger innocent bystanders on the ground. In September, an 11 month-old girl was injured by a quadcopter that crashed on a Pasadena street.

One of the main problems is that many drone operators have no aviation experience and are ignorant of the rules for safe flying. But clearly, some people simply don’t give a damn that their actions could threaten the safety of hundreds of others.

It’s likely the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. Industry groups are predicting that hundreds of thousands of drones will be sold in the U.S. this holiday season. That means hundreds of thousands of additional people with no aviation knowledge are suddenly going to have access to the airspace.

There are other causes for concern beyond the threats posed by ignorant drone operators. What about the terrorist or criminal who attaches a gun or bomb to a drone? And what about privacy? What is going to stop a pervert from using a camera-equipped drone to peek in on a woman who’s changing her clothes in her bedroom or a busy-body from snooping on what the neighbors are doing in their back yard?

The FAA announced in October that they’re going to require most small, personal drones to be registered, just like manned aircraft. This is a positive step. Knowing your name is linked to your drone will probably spur some people to think twice about their actions.

But the devil is in the details. Which drones are going to be exempt from registration? Will registration apply to drones that were bought before the requirement takes effect? How are they going to ensure people actually register their drones? What about drones that are sold second-hand? And how would registration actually prevent people from flying illegally, irresponsibly or immorally?

There won’t be any single solution to drone safety. It’s going to take registration. It’s going to take education. And, above all, it’s going to take the strongest possible civil and criminal penalties against people who break the rules or who fail to register their drones.

Accordingly, public safety agencies and organizations and support any and all local, state and federal ordinances and laws that would impose penalties against people who misuse drones or fly them irresponsibly.

The FAA recently announced a $1.9 million fine against a company that illegally operated drones over New York and Chicago. I hope this sends a powerful message.  While I am disappointed that Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that limits the use of drones unauthorized drones in emergency zones, public safety organizations will continue to support legislation that prohibits civilians from flying drones over wildfires, schools and prisons.

Enacting swift and forceful punishment will be the most effective method of deterring irresponsible behavior.  While punishment is not the only answer, sadly only when people start going to jail or pay crippling fines for dangerous or improper drone operations will the message really be driven home.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys . He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles deputy district attorneys.

[Marc Debbaudt]

This past week I engaged in a radio debate on Which Way, L.A. with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon over the effect that Proposition 47 has had on the crime rate in California. Prop. 47, as you now know, is a law that was deliberately mistitled The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act – like putting the label “Health Product” on a bottle of arsenic.  Mr. Gascon was introduced as a District Attorney opposing my view, but the audience was not told that he, in fact, was one of the two sponsors of the disastrous initiative.

By reducing drug possession and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, Mr. Gascon’s initiative made the streets of California less safe. In short, Prop. 47 set loose drug addicts, who characteristically commit thefts to support their habits, with their addictions untreated. Not surprisingly, theft crimes have skyrocketed.

Predictably, Mr. Gascon spun furiously in an attempt to deny the link between the increased crime rate and his reckless social agenda. Mr. Gascon actually argued that it was “a huge leap” to connect the increase of crime with the passage of Prop. 47.  He would have us believe that the crime surge is due to a new class of criminals that suddenly sprung up from the ether and invaded this state –  not the ones who were released as a result of Prop 47.

As I pointed out in my Los Angeles Times Op-ed and during my appearance on Which Way, LA,  law enforcement professionals – including the California District Attorneys Association – predicted that reducing felonies to misdemeanors would result in increased crime. One critical and fundamental flaw with Prop. 47 is that repeat offenders do not get any enhanced punishment – or, for that matter, treatment. Moreover, without the threat of incarceration, those addicted to drugs who steal to support their habits have no incentive to enter into drug treatment programs.

Possess and possess – even date rape drugs – and it is still a misdemeanor.  Steal and steal and it remains a misdemeanor.  Keep stealing, but keep it under $950 per victim, and you get a misdemeanor. Why does Mr. Gascon believe that if you steal $949 worth of goods for the fourth time it should still be a misdemeanor? How does this protect the public? I believe a survey of prosecutors and even police officers would reveal that most, if not all, do not think all first-time drug possessors should be charged with felonies.  But what prosecutors want is the discretion to punish appropriately those who continually violate the law.

Mr. Gascon actually argued that crime has gone up “in other parts of the country that don’t have Prop 47.” The inference is that there is some other national cause to the increase in crime in California, as though there is any relevant link between what is happening in other states and what is happening in post-Prop. 47 California.  He then weakly demanded we all await a study to tell him what we already know is obviously true.

Maybe it is only in San Francisco that one believes there’s an inexplicable coincidence that a law minimizing the consequences of theft would result in more theft.  Unfortunately, those people would have to ignore what has happened to San Francisco itself, where Mr. Gascon implemented his version of Proposition 47 in the years before the initiative.   Having decided to stop aggressively prosecuting property crimes and drug offenses, San Francisco crime rates rose significantly.  The city saw a 20 percent leap in property and violent crime between 2012 and 2013 while the rest of the state’s big cities as a whole saw a reduction in crime rates.

How could a responsible District Attorney, knowing his experiment had failed, want to export that failure to the rest of California? He must surely know that San Francisco now suffers one of the highest property crime rates in the State of California. A property crime comparison per 1,000 residents shows the odds of being a victim are 1 in 17 in San Francisco, compared to 1 in 38 in the rest of the state.  Good luck if you own a car in San Francisco; car burglaries jumped a staggering 47 percent in the first half of 2015, and San Francisco police officials cited Proposition 47 as a culprit. Rank and file San Francisco police officers told the local newspaper that “they don’t go after as many criminals as they used to because they feel the District Attorney’s Office will only slap them on the wrist instead of charging them with serious crimes.”

It is not just the victimization that Prop. 47 has unleashed on California residents and businesses that makes it a miserable failure. It is also that the intended goal of changing the behavior of drug addicts and thieves has not been advanced because incarceration was removed as an incentive to entering, and following through on, drug treatment programs.  As an extensive Washington Post article found, drug court and treatment programs around the state have disappeared as misdemeanor defendants increasingly refuse to enter the programs. They are choosing instead to serve their short jail sentences and be released, with no probation conditions or consequences for failed compliance hanging over their head.

That’s because there often are no real consequences for misdemeanor theft offenses. So former felons who are now misdemeanor defendants don’t show up for court to face their charges.  Unlike those facing felony charges, misdemeanor defendants are rarely held in custody pre-trial. As a result, failure to appear in court to face misdemeanor theft charges is common.  Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig called it the “revolving door on these low-level arrests,” where defendants are charged, never show up for court, and get arrested after committing yet another crime.

And even if a defendant shows up, there is little consequence for a misdemeanor conviction. Gascon argued during our debate that the potential one-year sentence that these offenders face for drug possession or theft is a significant amount of time.  That argument ignores the real world, where misdemeanor defendants actually face little to no jail time.

With Prop. 47, California residents and businesses now literally pay the price for a great adventure in reckless social engineering. People pay out of their own pockets when they become theft victims. Even if they are insured it is likely they pay a deductible. And if they report the loss, they risk a rise in premiums.  Because of Prop.47, the true cost of crime has been transferred from the criminal to the victim.  Society as a whole pays to investigate, prosecute and incarcerate thieves, and to fund the judicial system with courtroom time, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks, bailiffs, court reporters and jurors. The residents and visitors to our great state bear the financial brunt of thefts that will likely not be solved, or if solved, not punished.

And there’s my major gripe. All of Mr. Gascon’s financial arguments about the costs of incarceration never address the costs to society and to the victims in releasing these criminals. The victims are forgotten. Their actual losses and the emotional trauma they experience are ignored. All of Prop.47’s compassion goes to the offenders. Mr. Gascon asserts that we are “addicted to incarceration.” Sadly, that is the only addiction that appears to trouble him. The addiction to drugs that leads to theft does not bother him at all.  He calls drug addiction a health problem, but it is the only health problem that has as a key component the repeat victimization of innocent people.

While I understand there is room for compassion, my position is simple. Compassion should start with the victims. Compassion should insist on public safety first. If that makes me, in Gascon’s terms, “a tough law and order aggressive prosecutor,” I happily accept that label.  Mr. Gascon seems to believe that punishment and accountability are bad words, and that rehabilitation, which focuses only on the defendant, should be the goal of the criminal justice system. It is a sad day in California when an elected District Attorney, whose primary obligation is the safety of the community, sees residents and businesses as acceptable collateral damage in achieving his vision of a lopsided social utopia, tilted to benefit thieves and addicts.

Mr. Gascon essentially played a game with Californians. He convinced voters to roll back-alley dice in the Prop. 47 crime lottery. When your number comes up, it is because you are a crime victim or you are paying the costs of the crimes – sacrificed for a horribly misguided quest to avoid any significant penalties for drug addicts who steal from others to support their habits.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of  Deputy District Attorneys . He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles deputy district attorneys.

The message was bad enough: Police officers are murderers. But the timing and context in which film director Quentin Tarantino delivered it was perhaps even worse.

Tarantino referred to police as murderers during an anti-cop march last weekend in New York City. He demonstrated an almost unimaginable level of callousness by making this statement just four days after NYPD Officer Randolph Holder was murdered when a gunman shot him in the head. He apparently was oblivious to the irony of the situation: as he vilified police as murderous thugs, NYPD officers were protecting him and his fellow protesters by safely clearing a path for them.

In the wake of Tarantino’s crass and inexcusable comments, police unions in New York and Los Angeles called for a boycott of the director’s films.

The ADDA wholeheartedly supports this call to action. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. It does not guarantee the speaker will face no consequences for exercising that right. Let’s make the cop-hating director know there are consequences for irresponsible rhetoric that endangers police safety by fomenting hatred against them. Let’s do it in a way that ensures he will get the message: by hitting him in the pocket book.

The ADDA urges public safety organizations throughout the country to join in the boycott of Tarantino’s violence-infused films, and to encourage their members to spread the word using every means possible. By speaking to co-workers, friends, family and acquaintances. By contacting the media and using social media. By blogging and writing op-eds.

There is always a place for rational discourse about how law enforcement interacts with the citizens they protect. But there is never a place for hate speech that helps incite violence against the brave men and women who keep this nation’s residents – including people who vilify them, like Mr. Tarantino – safe at night.

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The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 deputy district attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.