On March 24th, Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino) announced that California’s State Auditor will undertake a review of whether Proposition 47, approved by voters in 2014, has increased or decreased theft and drug crimes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The auditor will also examine the measure’s impact on recidivism and underreporting of crimes. Ramos’s request for the audit was approved this week on a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 12-0 by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
Immediately following the news briefing about the audit, law enforcement and tribal advocates gathered to share information and suggestions about how best to implement Feather Alert, a new public notification system, administered by the California Highway Patrol, to combat the state’s growing rate of violence against Native American people, especially women and girls.
Assemblymember Ramos said, “We believe this measure has led to an increase in crimes, specifically property crimes in California. A solid, professional review of Prop. 47’s impact is critical to assessing what the impact has been in the eight years since the ballot measure’s passage and to determine if changes are needed. That is the role of the State Auditor.”
The audit will focus on statistics regarding Prop. 47 crimes pre-2014 and post-2014, the impact of COVID-era public safety policies on these numbers, and the effects on recidivism in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The audit is expected to be released in approximately six months.
Supporters of the audit include San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus, City of Redlands Interim Police Chief Rachel Tolbert, City of Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling, Sheriff’s Employees Benefit Association President Grant Ward, San Bernardino Police Officers Association Vice President Jose Loera, Lauren Pettigrew Munzer, Crime Victims United Board Member, and Hispanic Coalition of Small Businesses Chairman Frank Montes.
The Feather Alert, which became available in January, is a public notification tool to help law enforcement quickly notify the public about the disproportionate number of missing Native Americans and enlist their aid for timely leads to locate victims and prosecute suspects. The California Highway Patrol activates the alert at the request of local law enforcement, and it works much like an AMBER Alert.
Ramos said, “I am gratified that the governor approved this bill to help stop the violence afflicting California’s Native American communities. The Feather Alert will aid law enforcement and families in getting the word out quickly when a Native individual is missing or endangered by alerting the public in a broad and effective manner. Creating an alert or advisory system was a top recommendation from tribal leaders in May to highlight this issue.”
California has the highest population of Native Americans in the nation and is among the states with the highest rates of reported cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. The Feather Alert has specific criteria that must be met before activation, including the missing person being an indigenous woman or an indigenous person, local law enforcement determining that the person is in danger, and information being available that could assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.
According to the Sovereign Bodies Institute, only nine percent of murders of indigenous women in California have ever been solved. The Feather Alert aims to stem the tide of unsolved cases and provide more immediate support when suspected abductions or other acts of violence occur against California Indian people who suffer a disproportionate number of those crimes.
In California, the Feather Alert joins other special notifications overseen by the CHP, including the AMBER Alert, Blue Alert, Silver Alert, and general endangered missing advisory.
Participants in the summit on Feather Alert implementation included tribal leaders from across the State, along with representatives from the San Manuel MMIP Youth Advocacy Group. Law enforcement agencies that were present include California Highway Patrol AMBER Alert Coordinator Captain Ken Roberts, Merri Lopez-Keifer, Director of Native American Affairs in the Office of the Attorney General, San Bernardino County Sheriff Assistant John Ades and San Bernardino City Police Chief Darren Goodman.
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