Revolving Door “Justice” Presaged Violent Crimes

August 28, 2023

Dear Editor,

The violent homeless individuals arrested for the recent knife murder on our beach and the malicious Promenade attack on Councilmember Phil Brock both had been released from jail shortly before committing their crimes here ("Man Arrested for Attacking Councilmember Part of Legal Revolving Door, Police Say," August 7, 2023).

And it is evident that words, actions, and inactions from empty-headed government officials enable and even worsen violent crime in Santa Monica. Major changes are overdue and our City Council must lead the way.

First, a quick review of recent violent crimes here, based on publicly available law enforcement records:

The homeless individual arrested for last month’s knife murder a few blocks south of the Pier had been arrested and released on a citation just two weeks before.

Meanwhile, Brock’s mid-July attack brought to mind the old malapropism “deja vu all over again,” as his attacker’s previous catch-and-release arrests, for Vandalism and Threats of Violence, neatly foreshadowed his Sunday afternoon crimes on the Promenade, except this time he didn’t just threaten violence, he acted.

And these are hardly the first times catch-and-release, revolving door “justice” presaged violent crimes here:

A man SMPD arrested days ago for hate crimes, assault with a deadly weapon, and parole violation had been released from jail twice in the past three months.

Another man was arrested just days ago for sucker-punching a pedestrian in the head near Main Street, while a few days before that a different man was arrested on similar charges on Montana Avenue.

Both had recently been released from jail under a joint LA County-Santa Monica program that allows arrestees to avoid jail if they “self-report experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health issues.”

Last November, another man was released under this same program. He was arrested here two days later after lunging at a restaurant customer with a knife and threatening to kill him.

What about the homeless man who stabbed a City worker in the chest in Palisades Park in March? He’d been released from jail on a citation five days before.

Late last year, another homeless man was arrested for robbery and stabbings near the beach. Two weeks before, he’d been cited and released for battery (i.e., punching or hitting someone).

Appallingly, government policies and officials play a decisive role in facilitating violent crime.

State of California policies: Early release from prison ranks high among California’s unsafe policies. Based on the State’s published risk assessment, less than a third of inmates released early were considered at “low risk” of being arrested and convicted again.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that almost half of those granted early releases subsequently committed “crimes against persons,” such as assault and battery.

LA County: LA County District Attorney George Gascon’s policies are well-documented and so blatantly pro-criminal that 98 percent of Gascon’s own prosecutors favored his recall in a 2022 internal vote.

The LA County Probation Department and elected County Judges prance hand-in-hand with Gascon.

Since last summer County Probation released from jail inmates who subsequently committed violent hate crimes, attempted murder, murder, and assault with a deadly weapon in Santa Monica, while a recent court order by LA County’s Presiding Judge will ease criminals’ burden by mandating that police cite-and-release many arrestees at the “time of arrest,” rather than transport them to jail or a police station first.

Santa Monica: Former mayor Sue Himmelrich conveyed the City’s customary predisposition by delivering a shrill blame-the-victim scolding after the Brock attack, accusing Brock of “defying” the City’s homeless policy, and sending the wrong “message.” ("Brock's Actions: A Welcome Sign of Citizen Involvement or a Potentially Dangerous Example?" July 18, 2023).

(Not a peep from Himmelrich -- a vocal cheerleader for the City’s disastrous homelessness approach -- on whether Brock’s attacker defied City policy or sent a wrong message. Go figure.)

The good news, however, is the City of Santa Monica has independent municipal authority, notably the authority to enact public safety ordinances and to prosecute many crimes that occur here.

These include assault and battery, “serious domestic violence,” certain burglaries, trespassing, vandalism, and most quality of life crimes, such as drunk in public and urinating in public.

The City Council must leverage its authority to free us from harmful outside policies, such as by enacting City ordinances mandating strict local prosecution and meaningful jail time for offenders with violent histories.

If this requires visible, non-unanimous Council votes that offend soft-on-crime cliques, so be it. Show residents who stands with Santa Monica and who stands up for criminals.

Current efforts that demonstrate the Council’s authority include their recent move to allow police to temporarily confiscate knives here, an attempt to “work around” California state laws, as well as a sweeping firearms-related ordinance that targets residents and retailers and may very well entangle the City in costly lawsuits ("City Council Cracks Down on Knives and Guns," August 28, 2023).

Since neither State laws nor potential litigation dissuaded the Council from moving those ordinances forward, let’s see some tough public safety ordinances that target criminals by “working around” unsafe State and County crime policies.


Peter DiChellis
Santa Monica

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