Los Angeles County's implementation of the zero-bail policy began on Sunday, triggering a contentious debate. Twelve cities have legally challenged this decision, raising concerns about its impact on public safety. The policy eliminates fixed cash bail for individuals accused of certain non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.
Civil Rights Corps' Jeff Stein clarified to ABC7:
This change impacts only a small portion of the pretrial system. It’s just about that window between when a person is arrested and when they see a judge in LA. That can last up to five days.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court introduced the Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols this past July. Advocates argue traditional cash bail methods disproportionately disadvantage minority and economically vulnerable populations.
This move followed a May ruling by a Superior Court judge responding to a class action lawsuit. Plaintiffs in this case contended they experienced adverse repercussions, like missed work and family separation, due to their inability to post bail, as reported by KTLA.
Under the zero-bail system, individuals arrested for non-violent or non-serious infractions could be cited and released from local law enforcement facilities. If formally charged, they would be scheduled for a later court appearance. However, suspects seen as flight risks or potential threats would undergo a review before a magistrate judge to decide on detention or conditional release ahead of the arraignment, the Daily Wire reported.
However, 12 cities, including Arcadia, Palmdale, and Whittier, filed a legal challenge just before the policy's enactment, expressing concerns over public safety implications. A statement from these cities indicated their concerns about reduced enforcement consequences for so-called 'low-level' offenses, which they believe significantly affect community life.
Gary Boyer, Glendora's Mayor, expressed hopes of either overturning or pausing the policy, allowing for a more comprehensive review.
Meanwhile, LAPD Chief Michel Moore voiced his concerns on social media, stating, “Law enforcement is averse to the list of ‘book and release’ offenses because that approach offers little to no deterrence to those involved in a range of serious criminal offenses."
“We are asking the court to not release individuals who pose risks to the community’s safety, including those with repeated instances of prior serious offenses,” he added in his post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Furthermore, California's District Attorney, Jeff Reisig, lambasted the policy, referencing a 2023 study. He remarked, “They ignored the only thorough comparative study in CA on Zero Bail and its impact on statewide crime. My county. What our 2023 study found was frightening: 163% more crime + 200% more violent crime committed in CA by arrestees released from jail on Zero Bail."
Recent data showcases a surge in thefts in Los Angeles, with thefts rising by 15% from the previous year, and organized retail thefts, such as the smash-and-grab incidents, also witnessing a significant uptick since the fall of 2021.