A behind the scenes look at law enforcement activity in Ventura County was available at the recent Sheriff’s Foundation luncheon. The Sheriff’s Foundation is an organization created to support and enhance services provided by the Sheriff’s office. It serves as a community liaison, provides search and rescue training, and raises funds to help purchase equipment and “patrol” canines.
Sheriff Geoff Dean was the main speaker at the event and, although he acknowledged that our county was still one of the safest places in America to live, the Mexican Mafia crime ring and ongoing gang activities continue to be a problem. There has also been an increase in crime within the county jail. But with only one out of 100 applicants graduating from the academy, he knows he has special challenges to meet.
Proposition 47 which passed last November was a major issue of concern. It changed certain felonies to misdemeanors which in turn allowed 232 prisoners to be released so far; seventy more are pending. Sheriff Dean believes that dangerous people are being put onto the street. Even though we are glad that some non-violent marijuana offenders are now free, we do agree that those who committed “victim” crimes such as fraud, theft, and forgery should not have been included in this measure. Another unfortunate result of Proposition 47 is the Pharmaceutical Crimes Task Force which the Sheriff created to find and prosecute physicians who over-prescribe certain opiates and other medications. Libertarians consider this an open invitation to a witch hunt and it will certainly cause doctors to shy away from recommending medical marijuana.
Another topic was the federal surplus military equipment program which the Sheriff considers a huge benefit. There is some economic sense in it as long as it does not include tanks! So far the county has received about 21 million dollars worth of equipment from the DOD which includes boats, computers, generators, water trucks, and rifles. The department also has one unmanned drone which is used for search and rescue and SWAT operations. (At present the cost of a drone from the FAA is thousands of dollars more than one you can buy at a retail store.) More new equipment will be employed when the Body-Cams (body-worn cameras) Pilot Program begins this week. The opening cost is close to half a million dollars, mostly due to cloud storage expense.
This last department project is near and dear to every Libertarian’s heart. It’s the Advanced Real Time Information Center, a 24/7 social media search team that tracks posts on facebook, twitter, google and other sites in an attempt to gather crime-related information. Let’s hope no one misinterprets anything you say!
Libertarians understand that law enforcement is necessary. But there is always that fine line of civil liberties that needs protection. Technology can be abused, equipment can be over-used, and victimless crimes can be wrongly penalized. Well-meaning individuals should not have to fear their government and we trust Sheriff Dean will agree with us on that.