Will An Adversarial Police Oversight Board Lead Anaheim Down LA’s Path?

anti-police protestorsAB featThere’s a strange phenomenon is happening in the some of California’s larger cities. Even as crime has started to rise – many believe due to the tens of thousands of prisoners released under AB 109’s “prison realignment” and Propositions 47 and 57 — arrests by police departments in these cities have plummeted.

In Los Angeles, arrests dropped 25% from 2013 to 2015. Felony arrests between 2010 and 2015 plummeted 29% and misdemeanor arrests by 32%. Field interviews and citations have also declined markedly. Arrests by the LA County Sheriff’s Department and San Diego police similarly declined. Statewide, the number of arrests hit a 50-year low in 2015.

If there are a lot more criminals on loose, why are the police making fewer arrests? As LA City Councilman Mike Bonin recently told the Los Angeles Times:

“If crime was dramatically down, I wouldn’t have a problem with arrests going down. But if crime is going up, I want to see arrests going up.”

These are important questions for Anaheim because if there is some cause as to why arrests are down in these cities even while crimes rises and the number of criminals on the streets goes up, we can perhaps learn from it.

As we know, at some point soon, the Anaheim City Council will consider creating a Police Oversight Board with expanded powers, including issuing subpoenas and investigating officer-involved shootings and allegations of police misconduct. This is a pet project of a small but vocal group of activists whose attitudes toward police are far out of step with the general public’s. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say they view every officer involved shooting as a murder or an execution. They really believe police departments, including Anaheim’s, or oppressive forces staffed by racists officers who target young Latino men for gunning down.

Anaheim policymakers need to weigh several factors, not least of which is whether or not this would make the people of Anaheim safer? The drive to endow the civilian police oversight board with investigative powers is driven by the idea that police, not criminals, are the primary threat to public safety – especially in neighborhoods suffering from higher crimes rates. If enacted, these same activists, protected and supported by their council sympathizers, will in all likelihood coopt it and use it to target and hound police officers they don’t like. It will extend to Anaheim, through an official vessel, what author and scholar Heather MacDonald calls “the War on Cops.”

Thus far, the strange duality of rising crime and falling arrests hasn’t manifested itself in Anaheim according to data from the Anaheim Police Department:

Total arrests by APD
2013: 7,808
2014: 8,031
2015: 8,308

Felony arrests:
2013:  3,435
2014:  3,256
2015:  2,383

Misdemeanor arrests:
2013: 4,373
2014: 4,775
2015: 5,925

Perhaps one of the reasons we aren’t seeing the more-crime-fewer-arrests phenomenon other cities are experiencing is because Anaheim – unlike those cities – does not have an aggressively or adversarial Police Oversight Board questioning every action of police officers, after the fact and from the safety of the dais.

Increasingly, many law enforcement researchers refer to a so-called “Ferguson Effect” and the impact of radical movements like Black Lives Matter that many believe are sapping the willingness of police to vigorously, proactively enforce the law. The presence of aggressive “Oversight Boards” who give power to these anti-police movements can only increase this effect.

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 76% of police say officers “have become less willing to stop and question people who seem suspicious” and 73% are more reluctant “to use force when appropriate.  93% say they are more concerned about their safety and 84% said anti-police protest have made it harder to do their job.

We live in an era of pervasive social media where nearly every person has a video camera in their smart phone and are quick to record any law enforcement action in hopes of scoring a viral video. More and more officers reasonably conclude it is prudent to reduce their target profile by becoming more reactive and less pro-active.

Discussing rising crime on “Inside OC with Rick Reiff,” retired Anaheim Police Captain Joe Vargas said:

“Police are demoralized. That’s an absolute fact… This is dangerous for our communities especially if you have cops who are ignoring crime simply because they don’t want to expose themselves (to controversy).

“Every officer has had to become an expert police apologist, to their families, friends, relatives and neighbors. They’ve had to get really good at explaining why cops do what they do and, quite frankly, it gets wearing after a while. It’s no wonder that morale at agencies around the country is just tanking.”

While many officers are undaunted, Vargas told Reiff, others “are becoming firefighters… ‘If you call, I’ll come,’ but to expect me to get out of my car and do proactive work and expose myself to be the latest YouTube video that will be broadcast across the country with a false narrative, is just taxing to some people.”

Which brings us back to the matter of turning Anaheim ‘s civilian police oversight board into an investigative, enforcement body.  Who have been the primary advocates of doing this? Anti-police activists – the same folks who believe every officer-involved shooting is a racist execution. Why are they pushing for it? Because they disagree with the verdict of official shootings; they want a different outcome – cops put it jail – and believe an amped-up civilian police oversight board is their best chance of obtaining those outcomes. They may not dominate an enhanced POB right away, but very well could over time. Board members who are bold and loud and pushy will tend to dominate the discussion. Squeaky wheels tend to get the grease.

If that dynamic takes hold, it stands the reason the firefighter mentality will begin spreading among Anaheim police officers, to the detriment of the citizenry. If Anaheim has a civilian police oversight board that is culturally sympathetic to belief the police are trigger-happy brutes who are always in the wrong, tit will contribute to officers hanging back and not sticking their necks out unless absolutely necessary. That invites more crime and disorder and makes the law-abiding less safe.

We need look only north to Los Angeles to see the impact of a police force too scared to do its job. Is that the path Anaheim wants to follow?

11 comments

  1. Police have a complicated situation going on now the with cameras everywhere and instant backyard media reporting. Anaheim police are doing a great job trying to comply with the general public. Race is not a factor in previous conflicts…

  2. Anaheim has less than 600 police to serve a city of our size and still the numbers are up. What would the numbers look like if we had the appropriate number of police on duty? Of course they would be even higher. Next, we will ask them to pass out coloring books.

  3. We need more police and they need to be able to do their job. Guess who is called when there is serious trouble.

  4. Longtimeresident

    So sorry to see that our APD and all Police departments are demoralized – our world is upside down! I do my best to thank all officers I meet for protecting us!
    I heard today that our wonderful Governor is getting ready to release sex offenders into our communities….God help us all!

  5. LA”s mayor thinks they should be thanked for their “service” (His words) as an act of kindness. Boy is it going to be crowded in all the designated safe places.

  6. Thank you Longtimeresident, Police should be thanked. We need to hire 400 more for a city this size and the city should support them. Would any one of us want to do the job they do each and every day? Could any one of us be perfect in our job performance under the conditions they work under? They want to go home at the end of the day’s work too.

  7. Studentsthatcare

    There’s a very good reason why that clown wears a mask in the photo, no need to drop his name, we don’t want to give him any credit, but L.N. get a job. You’d never even make it as a policeman. They work HARD. And they’re completely understaffed.

    And take the stupid mask off.

    Thank you Anaheim police. I would be kind of afraid to make more arrests too…..with idiots all over the place.

  8. Lightening sentences because jails are crowded = more criminals on the street.
    More criminals one the street with less police = more crime.

    The public is paying attention and we must demand answers. Anaheim’s crime is under reported, especially in the resort district. The city/Disney officials under report to not hurt tourism. Stop wasting money and put that money toward making police visible. Maybe they can do their job properly then. Maybe they would feel appreciated. Publish the study report by a credible college that compares our city to cities of our same size which shows how many police we really should have.

  9. Well, first I don’t know anybody (well, maybe a couple of simple-minded zealots) who would call EVERY officer-involved shooting a “racist execution.” You have to notice, if you pay attention, that some of these events do NOT draw as much protest as others. But, rather than wade into the Everglades of complexities of how race ties in with how likely you are to get killed by a cop, I’ll straighten out something else first.

    As the husband of the lady with the “Film the Police” vehicle, I can attest that nobody (well, almost nobody) who films police activity is motivated by the desire to create the next “VIRAL VIDEO” of a horrible tragedy. The aim of filming is to prevent bad behavior on EITHER side. And to provide evidence if the worst happens.

    Who knew today’s police were such “snowflakes?” I highly doubt it. That is called “working the refs,” and sounds like police union talk.

    Also, we’ve never seen those people in the photograph – you sure they’re not actors?

  10. GoodGovernmentType

    As the husband of a lady whose son was killed by police for shooting at them while hopped up on meth coming out of a stolen car, how can you go along with her rationale her son was murderd by Anaheim cops? He was stupid. How is that lawsuit against the city going? It died right.

  11. As a LONG TIME Anaheim resident and participant in MY community, I take exceptjon to Vern Nelsons interest in Anaheim. Riding the coattails of his wifes dead gang banging Son is gross and mot very convincing.

    There was a time where, I was interested in Mr. Nelsons take on things , then I found out what his agenda was. Then I had an opportunity to converse with an equally engaged civic minded person: Mirevette Juddah, then I learnesd she DOES NOT LIVE IN ANAHEIM, finally, I put up with the screechy, loud arrogant voice of Union Thug Ada Bricenio.

    These people DO NOT REPRESENT ANAHEIM. Vern found a widow with a dead kid, who he could manipulate for political purposes.

    Donna, is a tragic soul. Dead husband (Murdered), Gang Member Son, killed in a SHOOTOUT with police, stricken to poverty and now a hanger on and his manipulative friends using her.

    SAD SAD SAD.

    How about West Anaheim???..?

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