Editorial: Crime and No Punishment

District attorneys in some cities have become advocates for emptying the jails and not for public safety.

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

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I’m writing this with four days to go in the first month of 2022, and so far the year has been a horror show for American law enforcement, with six officers feloniously killed.

Officers can be shot and killed anywhere in this country.

POLICE has covered these tragedies in places as remote as native villages in Alaska. But three of the January 2022 cop killings occurred in solidly blue states and solid blue cities: New York and Los Angeles. One of the other major similarities in these three cop killings is that they happened in counties with extremely liberal district attorneys: George GascĂłn in L.A. and now Alvin Bragg in the NYC.

I’ll come back to Gascón. But we’ll begin this discussion with Bragg. The New York County (Manhattan) DA ran unopposed. There was a Republican on the ballot, but a diseased camel could win a New York City election as long as it was a Democrat. Bragg, a civil rights attorney—he was representing Eric Garner’s mother in a case against the city when he was elected—and a former federal prosecutor, won with more than 80% of the vote.

DA Bragg ran on a platform of being soft on crime. So it should not be a surprise that his first act was to issue a memo telling his staff what crimes they could and could not prosecute. Specifically, he said he would not seek prison except for homicide and a number of other types of case, including domestic violence. Even when it came to homicide, he said he would not seek more than 20 years in prison for murderers before they would be eligible for parole. And that’s where Bragg’s new marching orders for Manhattan’s prosecutors directly affect cops. In New York state cop killing is one of a handful of crimes that can get you life without possibility of parole.

In late January two NYPD officers were murdered responding to a domestic in Harlem. A third officer shot and killed the suspect. But it makes one wonder how would Bragg have handled the prosecution of this case if the suspect had lived.

The suspect, Lashawn McNeil, had five prior arrests that we know of, including a gun charge and a charge of assaulting an officer. This is why we need three-strike laws.

Instead we get progressive prosecutors like Alvin Bragg. According to the New York Post, he told his staff that armed robbers who use guns or other deadly weapons to stick up stores and other businesses will be prosecuted only for petty larceny, a misdemeanor, provided no victims were seriously injured and there’s no “genuine risk of physical harm” to anyone.”

What happened to “use a gun, go to jail?”

Letting dangerous criminals roam the streets gets cops and the citizens they serve—the same citizens the DA is supposed to serve—killed. But Bragg is all about emptying the jails. He doesn’t want his staff to ask for cash bail except in extreme cases. So the revolving door from New York’s police stations will keep turning faster and faster and criminals will continue to run rampant in the city.

At least that will happen until some people in power say enough is enough. Some already are. And some politicians are beginning to take note. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul—not exactly a conservative—has warned Bragg that she will take action, if necessary. Under state law, she can remove the DA.

New York’s new progressive DA is just one of many “prosecutors” who have decided they are supposed to be advocates for the criminals they should be indicting and convicting. The kingpin of this group is George Gascón.

The former LAPD assistant chief, former chief of the San Francisco Police Department, former district attorney of San Francisco County, and current L.A. County DA, Gascón actually helped write Prop 47, California’s “get out of jail free” law. He also doesn’t believe in hammering gang members and cop killers with sentence enhancements. Which is why an interesting thing happened in L.A. County in January.

One of the officers killed last month was Fernando Arroyos of the LAPD. Arroyos was with his girlfriend shopping for a home in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County when a group of alleged Florencia 13 gang members tried to rob him. Arroyo was shot and killed.

Because this murder happened in the county and not in the city of L.A., it became a sheriff’s investigation. And once the suspects were in custody, Sheriff Alex Villanueva did a brilliant thing. He said he had absolutely no confidence in DA Gascón and called in the feds. Under federal racketeering law, the suspects now face a possible federal death penalty. At minimum they face life in prison without parole.

Sheriff Villaneuva has shown us the way. We need to turn all cop killing cases over to the feds. And the only way to do that is to get our representatives in Congress to pass a law that makes cop killing a federal crime. We can’t trust the discretion of some local prosecutors.

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