New bail policy causes controversy

Samira Felix
News Editor 

The city of La Verne and 11 other cities filed an injunction against Los Angeles County’s new Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, known as the zero-bail policy, a day after it was adopted, due to public safety concerns.   

The new policy replaces the cash-bail policy for certain offenses and allows police officers to take three possible actions for arrestees: cite and release, book and release or magistrate review. The policy was adopted on July 18, but did not go into effect until Oct. 1. 

La Verne City Manager Ken Domer said that the general concern regarding this policy is that the County is making changes without working with cities and police chiefs, which can have a tremendous impact. 

“The injunction is to hold up the process right now, so more thought can be put into it,” Domer said. “We want to be able to have a discussion with the Superior Courts as to their policy and try to ensure that our primary duty of public safety is still a priority.” 

David Slayton, executive officer and clerk of court for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County said money should not be the deciding factor of whether someone gets out of jail because someone who is considered higher risk, but wealthy can get out of jail, while someone who is considered low risk who does not have money stays in jail awaiting trial.   

He said under the previous cash-bail policy the deciding factor for whether someone is released from jail before trial is money.

“From our perspective, and the court’s perspective, that is not a way with which to ensure that the public is protected, and not a fair and equitable way to treat people primarily who don’t have access to money,” Slayton said. 

The decision also comes after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff issued a preliminary injunction on May 16 in the Urquidi v. Los Angeles class action lawsuit representing six plaintiffs who were held in custody because they could not afford bail. 

Slayton said the court was planning to make  a transition from the cash-bail schedule before the decision in the case was made. 

La Verne Police Department Captain Sam Gonzalez said that this policy change should have involved the community and law enforcement and that there has to be a better way of applying this policy because lower level offenses are increasing. Mom and pop shops are continuously being victimized. 

“Anytime you affect the safety of our residents and our public safety, we need to have a seat at the table,” La Verne Mayor Tim Hepburn said. 

California courts are required to annually revise and adopt a new uniform bail schedule for all misdemeanor and infraction offenses under Penal Code 1269b

Slayton said the courts operate differently than a city or county, so it is not possible to involve them in the decision making process because an elected committee of judges and the executive committee of judges make decisions and vote on the new bail schedule.

He said that when the policy was adopted by the court within an hour of the decision they had notified law enforcement and scheduled an in-person meeting on July 25 with every law enforcement agency in Los Angeles County.

“We presented everything to them and we invited their feedback and said ‘This thing can be modified, we’re happy to hear from you if you have concerns or issues,’” Slayton said.  “We have not refused any meeting and we also opened up a new email account on July 25 and said ‘email us any concerns or questions you have.’”

Cite and release or book and release cases will involve theft offenses, vehicle code violations, crimes against property like petty theft and vandalism. Magistrate Review offenses involve guns, sexual battery, crimes against children and elders and contact with minors with intent to commit a sexual offense. 

“I believe it empowers those who choose and I really think it’s a decision who chooses to commit crimes,” Gonzalez said.

Cite and release involves releasing arrestees at the location of their arrest. Book and release is when arrestees are booked in jail and released on their own acknowledgment with a citation for a court date. Magistrate Review involves arrested suspects who pose an increased risk to the public. They will be referred to an on-call officer who will determine the terms and condition of their release. 

Monrovia City Manager Dylan Feik said they want to make sure that public safety is the most important priority because the public might not feel safe if criminals are continually being cited and released.

“We’re not talking about the one off circumstance where someone breaks the law and that person is okay to post bail and to stay out of the jail system, it’s these other people that are, you know, basically committing multiple crimes,” Feik said. 

Slayton said law enforcement has the ability to make a cite and release or a book and release into a magistrate review if they believe the arrestee is high risk by calling the probation department that operates 24/7 and letting them know that they need to be looked at by a judge. 

He said data regarding the arrests made in the first few weeks since the policy took effect on Oct. 1 will be released in the coming weeks.

“It’s really all about the individualized determination of risk and release based upon that, not based on money, so that’s what we’re doing” Slayton said. 

The case has been transferred to Orange County from the Los Angeles County Courts and a hearing was scheduled for Nov. 17. 

Samira Felix can be reached at samira.felix@laverne.edu.

Samira Felix, a junior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is news editor for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer.

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