Crime & Justice

LA county officials examining CA's sentencing reforms in wake of officer's murder

People gather in Whittier for a vigil for police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed Monday morning after he and another officer tried to pat down a motorist involved in a traffic accident. The man was driving a stolen car officials say was connected to a murder hours earlier.
People gather in Whittier for a vigil for police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed Monday morning after he and another officer tried to pat down a motorist involved in a traffic accident. The man was driving a stolen car officials say was connected to a murder hours earlier.
Kyle Stokes
People gather in Whittier for a vigil for police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed Monday morning after he and another officer tried to pat down a motorist involved in a traffic accident. The man was driving a stolen car officials say was connected to a murder hours earlier.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, is accused of killing a 27-year-veteran of the Whittier Police Department and wounding his partner after a traffic accident on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. The killing has prompted two LA County supervisors to propose creating a panel to look at how sentencing reform in California has impacted public safety.
Courtesy of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
People gather in Whittier for a vigil for police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed Monday morning after he and another officer tried to pat down a motorist involved in a traffic accident. The man was driving a stolen car officials say was connected to a murder hours earlier.
Whittier Police Department officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed as he investigated a report of a traffic accident in Whittier on Feb. 20, 2017.
Whittier Police Department


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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday will consider creating a Blue Ribbon commission to examine what impact the state's recent sentencing reforms are having on public  safety in the region.

The motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn follows the February murder of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer–allegedly by a man who might have been locked up at the time, were it not for recent law changes that allowed him to be on probation supervision. 

Boyer was responding to a traffic collision when he was fatally shot. Christopher Michael Mejia, the man charged with his murder, had committed two felonies and had violated his supervision conditions four times in the months before Boyer's death. Some, mainly law enforcement officials, have said those violations would have sent Mejia back to jail or prison in the years before sentencing reforms, like voter approved Proposition 47, kicked in.

Others have called that idea speculative. 

Proposition 47, approved in 2o14, reduced the penalties for some drug and property crimes. It, along with other recent reforms, like prison realignment and increased good-time credits for inmates, have drawn criticism since their inception. There's been little empirical evidence, however, that they've impacted crime levels. 

Tuesday's motion seeks to examine the reforms on a local level and determine what kinds of supervision and rehabilitation work best for higher risk offenders. 

“We must now explore a more comprehensive and holistic understanding that will deliver lasting solutions to restore the lives of the individuals entangled in the justice system,” the motion states.  “These efforts must also include an understanding of the challenges experienced by law enforcement agencies and all first responders so that their safety and effectiveness may be maximized."

In particular, supervisors are interested in looking at so-called "flash incarcerations"—placing people in jail for up to ten days. At the moment, it's a frequent punishment for offenders who violate the terms of their community supervision. 

Under the motion, the panel would also conduct an analysis of offenders sentenced under recent reforms and who've since reoffended frequently. 

“Moving forward, Supervisor Hahn and I will be calling on our colleagues to support us on our collective goals of delivering meaningful treatment programs as well as enhancing public safety, including for our brave men and women in law enforcement,” Barger said in a statement.

In the wake of Boyer's death, supervisors ordered a report analyzing Mejia's supervision by the county's probation department. That report has not been released to the public.