Whittier, CA - Police officers across the country are grieving the senseless loss of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer who was killed on Monday. But some police officers are angry about his killer's recent release from jail and laws that might have contributed to this tragedy.
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper and other law enforcement officials are blaming new California laws that are designed to reduce incarcerations, according to The Los Angeles Times. Chief Piper said that “we need to wake up. Enough is enough. This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.”
The suspect was released from jail early, only 10 days ago. No further details have yet been released about him, including what he was incarcerated for, his criminal history, or his name, except that he is a known Hispanic gang member and was on parole. He was known to Police Officers, and just hours earlier had murdered his 46-year-old cousin and stole his car. It is believed that he was driving through Whittier just after the murder in the stolen vehicle when he was involved in the traffic crash.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell also blamed California laws, specifically Propositions 47 and 57, and Assembly Bill 109. He said these three specific laws have led to the release of 'too many criminals without creating a proper safety net of mental health, drug rehab, and other services.' Sheriff McDonnell also said that “we’re putting people back on the street that aren’t ready to be back on the street."
Proposition 47 was approved by California voters in 2014 and reduced some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 57 was passed by California voters in 2016. It completely changed California's 'three strikes' rule and made sentencing more flexible. This allowed some prisoners who wouldn't normally have been eligible for parole to be considered for early release.
Assembly Bill 109 allowed inmates who were sentenced to prison to serve their time in local jails. It has also pushed lower-level offenders out of custody and back onto the streets.
Now, there's little deterrent against committing future crimes and also very little consequences. AB 109 also puts an unfair burden on county jails who don't have the personnel to deal with larger numbers of inmates especially for longer periods of time. It's simply not what a local jail was designed for. Sheriff McDonnell is in charge of the largest county jail in the nation and said that it has become "a default state prison."
In Monday's incident, Whittier Police Officers Keith Boyer and Patrick Hazell responded to a report of a traffic crash. They walked up to the suspect's vehicle, thinking perhaps he was injured, and recognized the driver as a known gang member. They got him out of the vehicle and as they were patting him down, he pulled a gun from his waistband and shot both Officers. One officer returned fire but it is not known yet which Officer.
Police Officer Boyer was killed and Police Officer Hazell was wounded; he is in stable condition.
The gang member was also shot and is listed in stable condition.
I have to wonder if any of these three laws, or all three, contributed to this dangerous suspect being on the street instead of behind bars. Prison is designed to protect society from evil. If a suspect is behind bars, then he or she is not a danger to the public, or to police officers doing their jobs. It doesn't seem likely to me that this particular suspect had learned anything from his previous incarceration - it only took him 10 days to get back to business.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family of fallen hero Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer, both blood and blue. Our thoughts and prayers also remain with injured hero Whittier Police Officer Patrick Hazell.
Do you agree with the plan to reduce the inmate population by releasing criminals? We'd like to know what you think. Please let us know in the comments below.