California's Budget Fix: Cut Gang and Drug Fighters

State lawmakers are positioning their budget axe over the heads of the state Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE) and Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence (BII).

Valdemar 1 Headshot

Photo: rtilden.Photo: rtilden.

California faces some of the toughest challenges in its history. The state is behind only Washington D.C. and New York, as a top target for terrorists. California ranks among the highest among states in unemployment and problems involving housing, drugs and gangs. The state is watching the decline of once-great institutions and infrastructure such as bridges, dams, highways, hospitals and the electric grid. The state budget is in constant crisis.

The solution from the governor and state legislature to this crisis involves releasing nearly 40,000 state prisoners while, at the same time, cutting $71 million from the state's drug and gang fighting organizations such as the state Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE) and Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence (BII).

In past articles, I've been critical when city and county law enforcement agencies such as my own Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reduce or do away with its intelligence units. This forces cities and counties to rely heavily on state and federal intelligence sharing. Now, the state plans to gut the BII. This reduces the intelligence finding and sharing sources to federal government agencies. I've worked with these agencies in my 33 years in law enforcement, and the federal agencies seem to be the worst at gathering local intelligence and especially with sharing it.

This is the second stint for Gov. Jerry Brown at the California helm. He also served two terms as "Governor Moonbeam" from 1975 to '83. Back then, he appointed Rose Bird to the California Supreme Court. At the time, I objected to her strong anti-death penalty opinions and her numerous wacky court decisions. In 1986, she became the first Supreme Court judge thrown off the bench by voter recall. Two other California Supreme Court judges also fell.

As the son of former Gov. Edmund "Pat" Brown, Gov. Jerry Brown graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He earned a law degree from Yale in 1964. He's an old friend of liberals such as "Hanoi" Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Between his current governorship and his last one, he ran for President in 1976 and 1980, served as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007, and served as state attorney general from 2007 until earlier this year.

Before his recent election as governor, he re-cast himself as a born-again "law and order man." He even made an appearance on Michael Savage's controversial conservative radio show, The Savage Nation. Jerry Brown is really the same old politician.

To be fair, Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted the same $71 million in cuts for the California Department of Justice during his administration. Those cuts were not approved. Some may surmise that Jerry Brown's decision to make these cuts of the DOJ's budget are retaliation for his embarrassment during the election, when someone leaked his mistakenly taped conversation in which a voice could be heard calling his opponent, Meg Whitman, a "political whore." Insiders speculated that it was his wife's voice, but Brown fixed his anger on Alan Barcelona, the president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). The group represents 7,000 members in 180 different state jobs in the Department of Justice.[PAGEBREAK]

The DOJ cuts would seriously impact the state's ability to fight public corruption, organized crime and the explosion of drug and gang crimes. The state's law enforcement agents, who are already getting their pink slips, are members of 55 different law enforcement task forces including the largest national task force of 110 local state and federal officers. The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) is responsible for seizing 21 million plants since 1983 and confiscating over $72 billion in wholesale value of weed in the last seven years. They are responsible for 72 percent of the marijuana eradication in the nation.

The BNE and BII were also part of the task force representing five northern California counties called the United Narcotics Enforcement Team (UNET) that on Oct. 15 announced the arrest of over 100 suspects including members of transnational gangs and the Nuestra Familia prison gang.

These DOJ cuts would also dismantle state efforts to protect consumers, senior citizens, victims of violent crime, and witness protection programs. Some forensic services for rape victims and other crimes would also suffer.

One fourth of California's budget, or $40 billion, is now spent annually on Medi-Cal, which is a huge leaking wound in California's budget. Medi-Cal fraud is one of the areas investigated by the state, along with state welfare, public housing fraud, and governmental corruption. In 2010, there were 165 criminal Medi-Cal filings, 131 convictions, and no acquittals. This resulted in $19.1 million in criminal restitution and $208.1 million in civil recoveries.

These facts are no secret to the governor's office. Remember, he was the attorney general under the prior Gov. Schwarzenegger. Jerry Brown knows how this would hurt California.

Like most other recipients in the California budget in the past 20 years, DOJ has become a political football. It has become administratively top heavy with appointments to posts by Sacramento as political favors. This proposed $71 million in reductions would cut out the working staff but leave many of the political appointments in place.

Depending on the political shifting winds in Sacramento, the BNE has been pulled out of its role fighting drug traffickers and organized crime to serving the "for show" politically correct issues such as Department of Recycling (DOR). DOJ agents who are expert in investigating criminal gangs and organized crime have been reassigned to fight recycling fraud and environmental issues.

The besieged Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked for more control over whom and what is cut out of the DOJ. She announced recently that the DOJ would be reduced to working white-collar crime and computer crime.

DOJ agents have been pulled out of major task forces such as the one in San Diego battling the Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix drug and human trafficking organization. This case could result in the huge seizures of weapons, drugs, and money. Rather than share in the $50-100 million potentially seized by this task force, the DOJ took $2 million from the Department of Recycling to catch can crushers.

Looking at the recent history of frustrating gross misdirection of the California Department of Justice causes one to wonder whether this is a series of foolish mismanagement errors, or whether there's a method to the madness.


California's 'Realignment' Toward Higher Crime

About the Author
Valdemar 1 Headshot
Sergeant (Ret.)
View Bio
Page 1 of 20
Next Page