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Whittier police officer recovering after unprovoked attack

Everyone in Whittier needs to be aware of an unprovoked attack last weekend on one of our police officers. Why is this so bad? As you will see, this violent offender had just been arrested for carrying a loaded handgun, had a felony warrant, was locked up, and was set free pursuant to a judge’s order. Why did a judge let this guy out only to hurt our officer?  Here are the facts.

Whittier Police Department officers responded to a call of a person acting disruptive and aggressive towards members of the public at a business in Santa Fe Springs in the morning of October 2. When officers arrived, he was acting erratically and in the process, told officers he had a loaded firearm on him. Officers safely took him into custody and did in fact recover a loaded handgun from him. He also had one outstanding warrant.

The person was transported to the WPD jail and booked for weapon charges and the outstanding warrant. As part of the county’s Pretrial Risk Assessment Program (PREP) which started in March, all arrests are reviewed remotely by a duty magistrate (judge), to assess suitability for a release, with a promise to appear in court at a later time, instead of remaining in custody. On the evening of October 2, the WPD received an order from the court through PREP, to release this individual with a future court date.

This is part of the pretrial risk evaluation program, where a judge reviews all arrests and issues orders to hold or release suspects based on flight risk and other factors in a computer program algorithm. 

A few hours after his release, he ended up at a local hospital for a medical issue. While he was at the hospital, several of our officers walked in with a patient from a different call for service. While officers were present, he walked up behind one of our officers and violently hit the officer over the head multiple times. Other officers were able to assist immediately and take him into custody – again.

He was once again transported to our station and booked on felony assault charges. Our officer is recovering and we hope to get him back on patrol soon. 

So why was this violent criminal out on the streets after having been arrested for a felony warrant and carrying a handgun? All due to the experimental “PREP” early release program.  This is a part of the on-going move in California to provide “pre-trial reform” and preparing for an “alternative system that emphasizes both public safety and monitored release that is not based upon a person’s ability to pay.” 

In a recent article discussing Judicial Council of California pilot projects, a Court of Appeals justice said the move is far from perfect but will lead to a more equitable criminal justice system: “I have no doubt that there are people, there are naysayers that are looking and waiting for that very first release decision gone wrong…we also know of people who are losing their jobs and losing their homes and sometimes losing their family simply because they cannot afford to pay bail.” 

So, is the unprovoked assault upon our officer last weekend by a criminal who was out under the experimental PREP Program, “the very first release decision gone wrong”?   I don’t know, but I do know that any criminal who is arrested for an outstanding felony warrant and is carrying a loaded handgun should never be on the streets, or be cut loose, especially when the decision is made to release the criminal based upon a pilot project utilizing a judicial algorithm assessment. 

Everyone in Whittier needs to be aware of what’s going on, the direction our courts and Legislature is moving and each person needs to ask himself/herself, “with these ‘reforms’ am I safer? Is my family safer?”  The answer is obvious.

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