LA. County to Study State Criminal Justice Reform

County supervisors will take a close look at the impact of three statewide justice reform measures passed since 2011. Some advocates cited the fatal shooting of a police officer, allegedly by a man who had violated his probation several times.

Michael Mejia violated his probation several times in the 10 months after he was released from California’s Pelican Bay State Prison in last year. Then, on Feb. 20, authorities say, Mejia gunned down his cousin, followed by the fatal shooting of Whittier police officer Keith Boyer hours later. He has been charged with two counts of murder, the Los Angeles Times reports. The officer’s slaying prompted an investigation into Mejia’s release and his supervision by the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Yesterday, it was cited repeatedly as a reason to create a blue-ribbon commission to study the impact of state criminal justice reforms in L.A. County.

Creation of the 27-member panel was approved by the county Board of Supervisors in a 3-0 vote. It will examine the “challenges and opportunities” related to recent state criminal justice reforms. Three measures passed starting in 2011 shifted public safety responsibilities from the state to counties, downgraded some property and drug felonies to misdemeanors, and allowed for the early release of some inmates. “This is not a referendum on criminal justice reform efforts,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Instead, this should be a conversation on how we make the reforms that we do have work.” Discussion at yesterday’s board meeting often centered on the merits of the reform measures and their effects on crime rates. “While developed with good intentions, the legislation may have created unintended consequences, placing our public and our first responders at risk,” said L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who favored the creation of the commission.