• Malibu Can Lead the Way •
The Malibu City Council will have the opportunity Monday night to follow the lead of its Public Safety Commission and explore whether to recommend to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that it consider making some changes in its policies and protocol related to the release of arrestees.
The issue of releasing individuals, who either have been booked and are not detained, and those who have spent some time in custody, without adequate consideration for their ability to care for themselves once they leave a sheriff's station has developed a vocal constituency throughout the nation.
The critics of the status quo says it is in conflict with law enforcement agencies' commitment to "protect and serve," may put vulnerable individuals in harm's way, and ultimately may cost taxpayers large sums of money to defend litigation that might lead to even larger settlements or jury awards.
This public policy concern isn't related to just one individual or a single case. There have been numerous documented incidents where people have been released from Lost Hills and other LASD stations late at night without access to their car, money, credit cards, or cell phones.
If these individuals don't have someone to contact, or are unable to reach assistance, they may have to walk alone for miles or accept rides from strangers, or they might even disappear and be found dead.
Certainly, no one in Malibu would want a family member cast out under comparable circumstances. And disparaging these individuals as "law violators" ignores American legal philosophy of innocent-until-proven-guilty and equal-protection-of-the-law.
If an arrestee is ill, physically or mentally, the odds can be even worse. They are struggling to deal with a disability in an area that is unfamiliar, and they may not have access to the usual mix of urban services.
The PSC recommendation that persons not be released between sunset and sunrise unless there is confirmed transportation is simple humanity.
Assuring that individuals are not separated from the personal belongings they need for their personal well-being and safety—a wallet, money or credit cards, a cell phone, and, in cold weather, an outer garment—should not be subject to an arresting officer's discretion. It should be mandatory.
The City of Malibu can take the initiative in this discussion, which is now occurring in a number of communities throughout the state. The LASD hierarchy recognizes the importance of the issue, it might even welcome the community stepping forward and making it easier to implement a change.