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Santa Monica Voters Oppose Law Enforcement Measure, Help Oust Prosecutor

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By Jorge Casuso

November 9, 2020 -- While fighting crime became a cornerstone of the November 3 City Council election, Santa Monica voters continued to tie the hands of law enforcement at the polls.

Proposition 20 -- which would have allowed some theft crimes to be prosecuted as felonies -- was rejected by 68 percent of Santa Monica voters, according to early results.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica voters joined a coalition of black, Latino and White liberal voters that propelled George Gascon -- a champion of alternative sentencing measures -- to the District Attorney's seat.

According to early votes cast in Santa Monica, Gason was leading DA Jackie Lacey, who was backed by law enforcement, 55 to 45 percent.

"We as a City need to stop talking out of both sides of our mouth," said Police Captain Candice Cobarrubias. "The numbers don't lie.

""We don't want a police state, but we want to make sure our policies are in line with what the community is advocating," Cobarrubias said, referring to the widespread call among residents to fight crime.

The November 3 preliminary results -- which are based on early mail-in votes and in person voting -- furthered a trend that has seen Santa Monica voters overwhelmingly approve Statewide measures police blame for rising crime rates.

In 2014, Santa Monica voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 47, which re-categorized some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors, with nearly 79 percent of the vote, compared to 60 percent statewide.

Nearly 80 County Sheriffs and District Attorneys, including Lacey, opposed the measure.

Opponents argued that the proposition would allow career criminals to be treated as first-time offenders and could result in a rise in crime.

Two years later, nearly 82 percent of Santa Monica voters backed Proposition 57, which hastened the release of some non-violent offenders from prisons. By comparison, the measure received 68 percent of the vote statewide.

"People probably didn't think through and see what the bigger repercussions were," Capt. Cobarrubias said last December ("Suspect in Random Assault on Elderly Man Has Long Arrest Record," December 12, 2019).

An analysis of police and court records by the Lookout found that a revolving-door court system put many violators quickly back on the street ("Suspects in Santa Monica's Most Violent Crimes Were Repeat Offenders," March 13, 2018).

Last week, Santa Monica voters rejected a chance to roll back some of the changes they had supported in 2014 and 2016 when they voted to defeat Proposition 20.

The failed proposition backed by law enforcement would have added 22 crimes to the state’s list of violent offenses that make an offender ineligible for earlier parole.

It also would have allowed felony charges for some theft crimes that currently can be charged only as misdemeanors.

Based on early votes counted on November 4, Santa Monica voters opposed the measure 3,557 to 1,660. The 68 percent of local voters who opposed the measure compared with 62 percent statewide.

The early results won't be updated until the votes are certified at the end of the month, according to the LA County Registrar.

Santa Monica voters also played a role last week in electing Gascon, with early results showing 2,598 votes for the former San Francisco police chief and 2,152 for Lacey.

An analysis of early precinct results by the LA Times found that "while Lacey maintained her past support in white, suburban edges of the county, she lost some liberal, white-majority areas of the county such as Santa Monica and Venice."

Lacey defeated Gascon in the March 3 primary in Santa Monica with 11,033 votes, or 41.27 percent, to 10,127, or 37.9 percent. Rachel Rossi received 5,574 votes, or 20.85 percent.

Gascon -- who was fiercely opposed by law enforcement -- is considered a champion of "alternative sentencing measures" and ending "mass incarceration."

"In San Francisco, Gascón made frequent use of diversion programs and alternative sentencing methods for defendants accused of nonviolent crimes, juveniles and those suffering from mental illness or drug addiction," Yahoo news reported.

"The moves helped lower San Francisco's jail population during his eight years in office, but some police officials also blamed his policies for driving a historic surge in car break-ins," according to the report.

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