Transcript: Part V of the Public Policy Institute of California panel on the effects of the public safety realignment – June 28, 2013

Part V: Partial transcript of the Public Policy Institute of California panel on the effects of the public safety realignment in California on June 28, 2013:

David Lesher, Director of Government Affairs at PPIC:
ADP is average daily population. CCP is community corrections partnership…

So Matt, you’ve worn the state hat and the local hat and what’s your perspective on how this is – what should the state do to make this work best?

Matthew Cate, Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties and former Secretary of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation:
Well, I think Sen. Hancock truly believes that the legislature won’t put their hands in this, and she has a lot of control over that. But if it doesn’t go well, they won’t be able to help themselves. It’s their job to make sure that to the extent that if crime rates spike, if we see some disasters happening out there, the pressure is immense on the Governor and the legislature to act if things truly break.

I think the right message that I heard from the Senator and from my colleagues is that it takes time to figure that out, and figuring it out is the hard part. I think if we had to do it over again, we probably would have included a research component to AB 109. I know that’s something that Sen. Hancock had her eyes on early on. It costs money and you got to think through ahead of time how do you do it. Difficult because that’s not something the state does that’s natural. That’s something that places like PPIC and academics do. And so it was hard to get that to be a fit.

But there’s a role there for the state. I think as soon as Chief Penner takes over the BSCC, we’ll be calling her to ask “What are you doing?” and “Can you gather data for us on what’s working and what’s not?”

The great thing about running a statewide system is that we had ability to gather data like crazy. In corrections, there’s 40, 50 people working in research, gathering data and then disseminating it. And that’s true for everything from recidivism rates to individual information on every offender that left the prison and was on parole that every one of Sheriff Christianson’s cruisers have access to.

Well, a lot of that stuff has fallen away now that we kind of gone to this system of pushing responsibility outward.

So I think those issues of data, issues of trying to help – hold information on best practices – I know that as an association, that’s something that CSAC has been focused on – how do we hold together, especially with the sheriffs and the chiefs, and learn from one another on what’s working, how do we work together to get apples to apples data that we can then utilize to make sure that the Governor and the legislature have the information they need to see that we’re moving in the right direction and to argue for patience even when an individual county may come and say “We need changes now that benefit this one place” that the other 57 might not like very much.

…The partnership healthy. We have to do our part so that they can do their part and forbear the pressure to micromanage.

David Lesher, Director of Government Affairs at PPIC:
…What does Realignment mean to public safety? And we’ve seen some of this discussion going on in the media and the political rhetoric so far, it’s likely…that it might come up over the next year. I just want to get from this panel a perspective on how should people think about Realignment and crime and what we know, what we don’t know…

Adam Christianson, Sheriff of Stanislaus County and Vice President of the California State Sheriffs’ Association:
…First of all, the thing we can’t do is create a unique and definitive nexus between crime rates and Realignment. You have to look at a number of different variables. In Stanislaus County, serious and violent crime has not risen nor has it declined; it’s relatively stable throughout the community.

But a variable in crime rates is our economy. The last four years has been horrific for everyone, including public safety. Typically in recessions, public safety is bulletproof. I carved 25% of our funding resources and staffing out of our budget; 27% of our deputy sheriffs lost their jobs. So you can’t expect to maintain an adequate level of safety and security in the community if you don’t have the resources to do it, and frankly there’s a finite amount of money. So that’s a variable.

Addiction – horrible, horrible problem in the Central Valley. Methamphetamine is destroying families with children. It’s a horribly addictive substance, and it drives property crimes. So we’re seeing double digit increases in property crimes right now, especially in the agricultural community because in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley the agriculture is a multi-billion industry. We feed the world. Yet, we’re seeing tremendous problems with metal theft, equipment theft, product theft, chemical theft. I mean, it’s rampant.

And even public safety is not immune. We’ve got an emergency vehicle operations course at the old…naval air station, and we had a big traffic avoidance system set up with traffic lights and signaling and everything else. They took all of that. Just last week. All gone. Stolen. Because it’s metal, you know, they salvage this.

So you take all of those variables – the economy, staffing, resources. You take addiction. You take, I think, to some degree Realignment because if you have a jail bed capacity problem and you’re kicking people out and you have no way to adequately supervise them or provide them with resources and tools they need to be successful, they’re going to fall right back into the trap of addiction, and they’re going to go out and they’re going to do what they do to feed their habit. So that’s where I see crime rates in Stanislaus County.

And again, the final variable in that is the community itself. Again, we partner with the community. The people who live in our communities are as equally helpful in the partnership as law enforcement. We can’t be everywhere at once. But I can tell you that active, engaged community members who are ever vigilant, looking out for each other – neighborhood watch, community awareness, public education, crime prevention – if everybody took that extra step to make sure their car was locked, that there was a club on the steering wheel, that you didn’t leave anything in plain view, then Modesto in Stanislaus County probably wouldn’t be number one in auto theft again. So I think there are things we can do collectively to help mitigate some of those petty crime rates that are occurring right now as well as crime in general in our communities.

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