Whittier’s Mayor Says the Justice System Failed Slain Officer Keith Boyer. Here’s How.

It’s been one month since the murder of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer. The soul-searching continues, buoyed by this uncomfortable but critical question: Did our justice system fail Officer Boyer and the community he was sworn to protect? Whittier’s mayor believes it did.

Chief of Police Jeff Piper was the first to condemn a number of criminal justice reform measures that he thinks contributed to Boyer’s death. Almost immediately, media outlets like the L.A. Times began ‘correcting’ the chief, noting that the shooter, Michael Mejia, was not released early as a result of Proposition 47 or AB 109. But that was never Piper’s contention, Mayor Vinatieri notes in an op-ed published last week. Rather, he says, Mejia benefited from a number of peripheral components of these laws, as well as the more lenient treatment they afford certain crimes under our criminal justice system.

AB109 realignment amended approximately 500 criminal statutes to essentially eliminate the possibility of state prison time for some offenders. It was enacted in the face of federal direction to reduce severely overcrowded California state prisons. But the statute states it was enacted to combat recidivism, not because of overcrowding.

While Mejia did serve his two years for grand theft auto in state prison at Pelican Bay, he was released under AB109 on community supervision probation at the county level because his auto theft charge was considered a “non-violent” property crime. Officials were not allowed to consider Mejia’s past violent criminal history, only his most recent conviction. Yet his previous conviction and prison incarceration was for robbery.

Mejia was jailed an unbelievable five times since his June 2016 prison release for drug violations and another violation classified as a felony. Pursuant to AB109, Mejia received the maximum “flash incarceration” of 10 days each time in county jail, the equivalent of a “time out” for a child. County probation could not return Mejia to state prison, another direct result of AB109.

It wasn’t just the state’s realignment program that affected Mejia’s treatment. Even after he committed additional crimes, a newer measure passed by voters in 2014 ensured that the repeat criminal remained on the streets, says Vinatieri.

While any of Mejia’s recent drug-related probation violations could have been filed as new charges by the District Attorney’s Office, they would only be filed as misdemeanors resulting in minimal county jail time — a direct result of Proposition 47...

Any concerned citizen can now see that there is a major problem with this system.

Vinatieri’s frustrations are shared by a number of cities and law enforcement personnel across the state. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris made similar claims after the death of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant last year.  

Read the full op-ed by Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri here