Speaking to the Rotary Club Thursday, Gary Cramer, deputy chief of the local police department, talked about the proposed merger of the Kings County gang task force with the county’s narcotics task force. Cramer currently heads both multi-agency units.
There are several reasons for the merger, not the least of which is that in California, it appears, the war on drugs is officially over. While drug crimes carry on, the punishment for such crimes has been reduced, tying the hands of law enforcement.
Laws—some already implemented and some proposed—are stretching law enforcement efforts and aligning against the average, law-abiding taxpayer,
First came the Governor’s re-alignment measure, reducing the mandate for crimes that required prison sentences. The move was made to reduce the number of inmates incarcerated in state prisons; the result was that those same criminals now do time in county jails that were not designed to house such criminals. County lock-ups customarily housed inmates that were convicted of low-level crimes and had one year or less to serve behind bars. Currently, county jails now are forced to take care of inmates who could be serving as many as 12 years or more in jail.
Adding to the burden on local law enforcement, Proposition 47 took the teeth out of the war on drugs. Many drug crimes that were felonies became misdemeanor crimes instead. Many such drug crimes now result in just a citation against the offender.
If that’s not enough, on the current November ballot is Proposition 57, a measure from the Governor’s office that will further reduce the prison population. The purported “public safety and rehabilitation act” does little to protect the public; instead, it incorporates drastic changes to sentencing laws, including eligibility for parole, that disregards sentencing enhancements, while giving prison officials broad authority to award increased conduct credits, including to murderers and rapists.
And there’s more than one way to skin a cat. If changes in state laws, especially drug laws, do not end the war on drugs, just dry up the funding used to continue the battle. Cramer noted that there is a lack of funding to the county task force, another reason the two are looking to merge.
Resources are limited countywide, he noted, and not just for the narcotics battle. Providing one office for both task forces will help cut costs.
There is still grant funding for the gang task force, even though Prop. 57 would reduce gang enhancements in criminal sentencing. That funding should be available for the next 18 months, and the county was told that if the two task forces are combined before then, funding could be lost.
Even though the perfect storm seems to be aligning against law enforcement efforts on many fronts, Cramer said now is not the time to give up the fight.
“There are still significant quality of life issues in Kings County,” he noted. “We don’t want to throw our hands up. We want to put our best efforts into keeping our residents safe.”