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Officers say Props 47 and 57 made the streets dangerous. But there's no proof.




A guard stands at the entrance to the California State Prison at San Quentin in San Quentin, California.
A guard stands at the entrance to the California State Prison at San Quentin in San Quentin, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A traffic stop in Whittier Monday morning turned fatal, leaving Whittier police officer Keith Lane Boyer dead.

The LA Sheriff's Department says the suspect is a known gang member and was released on parole just days before,.

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper placed the blame for Boyer's death on crime policies like Prop 47 and Prop 57, which California voters passed in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Prop 47 turned certain crimes like grand theft and check forgery from felonies to misdemeanors. Meanwhile, Prop 57 created a path to early parole for nonviolent inmates in state prisons.

"Enough is enough. You're passing these propositions, you're creating these laws that are raising crime," Piper said in a press conference.

"It's not good for our communities and it's not good for our officers. What you have today is an example of that. So we need to pull our head out of the sand and start realizing what we're doing to our communities and to our officers who give their life like officer Boyer did today."

Other law enforcement officials like LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell also say these policies have made the streets more dangerous for officers.

"We're putting people back on the street that aren't ready to be back on the street," he said.

The problem with these claims is that there is no proof.

"We have have no empirical evidence, one way or another, as to Prop 47's [and Prop 57's] role in crime in the state of California," says UC-Irvine criminologist Charis Kubrin. 

It can take researchers like her several years to get statewide data, crunch the numbers and draw reasonable conclusions about a policy.

And Props 47 and 57 are still relatively new.

"You have to at least allow some time to pass in order to determine crime, post a policy," she says.

There are a couple preliminary reports out right now.

But Kubrin says it's too early to determine the rise or fall of crime because of these ballot measures, despite what law enforcement officials say.

"They have on-the-ground experience. I would never discount that experience," she says. "On the other hand, the reason why we do proper policy evaluations is so that we don't draw erroneous conclusions from the experiences of individuals on the street."

Hear the full interview with Charis Kurbin by clicking the audio player above