This month’s issue focuses on law enforcement and we have a variety of articles to read on this topic. What is law enforcement? The dictionary defines law enforcement as “the department of people who enforce laws, investigate crimes, and make arrests.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) describes law enforcement as “individuals and agencies responsible for enforcing laws and maintaining public order and public safety.” Law enforcement includes the prevention, detection, and investigation of crime, and the apprehension and detection of individuals suspected of law violation.
Many of us have encountered law enforcement at one point or another in our lives – whether it is as a result of a vehicle accident, a victim of a crime, or due to our careers. I have encountered law enforcement in all three instances.
BJS, a component of the Office of Justice Programs in the United States Department of Justice, gathers information regarding contacts with law enforcement and is our country’s primary source for criminal justice statistics. Its mission is to collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal, state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded. Depending on the topic, data collection by BJS can occur yearly or every four years.
In May 2017, BJS released the results of a 10-year study concerning police response to domestic violence from 2006 to 2015. Police were notified in 56% of the 1.3 million nonfatal domestic violence victimizations that occurred each year. These victimizations were committed by intimate partners, immediate family members, or other relatives and included both serious violence (rape or sexual assault, robbery) and aggravated assault. Victims reported the incidents to police 76% of the time, with the other 24% of reports coming from another person. Police responded within 10 minutes of notification 64% of the time and took a report at the scene 78% of the time. The perpetrator was arrested or charged in 39% of the reported victimizations and when a serious injury occurred and a criminal complaint was signed, the perpetrator was arrested or charged 89% of the time. Interestingly, both men and women had similar numbers of victimization in known victim-perpetrator pairings, both for simple assault and serious violence.
Unfortunately, there have been nearly 600,000 unreported nonfatal domestic violence victimizations each year between 2006 and 2015. These incidents go unreported for various reasons, ranging from the personal nature of the incident to fear of reprisal. The full report is available to be read here: www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/prdv0615.pdf
The California Department of Justice – via its Criminal Justice Statistics Center (CJSC) - also keeps statistical data concerning crime within the Golden State. The role of the CJSC is to collect, analyze, and report statistical data that provide valid measures of crime and the criminal justice process, examine these data on an ongoing basis to better describe crime and the criminal justice system, and promote the responsible presentation and use of crime statistics. The most recent data it has is from 2016 and the report contains information concerning reported crimes, arrests, dispositions of adult felony arrests, adult probation, criminal justice personnel, citizens’ complaints against peace officers, domestic violence related calls for assistance, and law enforcement officers killed or assaulted.
In 2016, the following crime rates increased measured per 100,000 people: homicides, violent crimes, motor vehicle theft, and arson. However, in the same year, the crime rates decreased in the following: property crimes, robbery and burglary, and larceny.
Arrests of adults and juveniles also decreased in 2016. Almost 67% of arrests resulted in a criminal conviction, with jail and probation being the most frequent sentence given to adult offenders. While the number of prosecution, public defense, and law enforcement personnel all increased, the number of probation personnel decreased. The total number of reported citizens’ complaints against peace officers increased. Unfortunately, the total number of law enforcement officers assaulted in the line of duty increased.
On a final note, I want to again extend an invitation to all RCBA members to attend our monthly Board meetings, typically held on the third Wednesday of the month. If you are interested, please contact (951) 682-1015 and let Executive Director Charlene Nelson know that you will be attending.
L. Alexandra Fong is a deputy county counsel for the County of Riverside, handling juvenile dependency cases. She is also president-elect of the Leo A. Deegan Inn of Court.