How can we expect law and order in Riverside County when our judicial system is failing?

How can we expect law and order in Riverside County when our judicial system is failing?

Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Dec. 29 in Jurupa Valley by William McKay, 44, a three-strikes convicted felon who was out on bail while awaiting sentencing.

This tragedy clearly could have been prevented had California’s judicial system been working properly.

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the state Capitol in honor of Cordero. With all due respect, governor, the gesture is not enough.

Though this Editorial Board doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, in this case, we do. Bianco did not mince words about the tragedy.

“He should have been immediately sentenced to 25 years to life,” Bianco said of McKay. “We would not be here today if the judge had done his job.”

The Association of Riverside County Chiefs of Police and Sheriff (ARCCOPS) penned a Dec. 30 letter urging Riverside County Superior Court judges to “immediately stop the mass dismissal of criminal cases as the public safety crisis worsens.” The letter was signed by 19 Riverside County law enforcement agency chiefs, Sheriff Bianco, and District Attorney Mike Hestrin.

They make a plea with Riverside County judges to deal with the backlog with more urgency and creativity – floating the idea of ​​night court hearings via Zoom, or bringing in retired judges. Both of which seem immediate and necessary at this point.

McKay has a long and troubling rap sheet. California’s three-strikes law establishes that people with three convictions of certain felonies are to be sentenced to 25 years to life. So it’s shocking that McKay was roaming freely while awaiting sentencing for his third strike and committing more crimes.

McKay, 44, had been convicted of multiple felony amounting to a third strike in November 2021. But more than a year later, he was not behind bars. on Dec. 29, he was pulled over in Jurupa Valley, and fatally shot Cordero. He fled, starting a manhunt that endangered the public and ended in him firing at officers on one of Southern California’s busiest interstates. They fired back and killed him.

What made this even more shocking was that McKay had been arrested again after his third strike conviction for false imprisonment, evading arrest and other felonies and he was released on bail, arrested again, then released again months before the fatal shooting. Judges and prosecutors have to answer for those decisions.

There seems to be misstep upon misstep by the San Bernardino County criminal justice system. Who do we turn to for answers before another public servant ends up losing their life?

Our elected representatives can start to address this by dealing with the shortage of judges.

Judge shortages in both San Bernardino and Riverside counties are affecting the public’s right to safety. As we noted in a recent editorial, the Nov. 22 Judicial Council report portrayed a damning situation in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

According to that document, of the 98 judges needed statewide, 52 are needed in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. San Bernardino leads the “needs” list with 30 judges followed by Riverside with 22.

That’s more than half of the state’s entire need right here in the Inland Empire.

And yet between San Bernardino and Riverside counties, only 10 new judgeships were funded in 2022, with six in San Bernardino and four in Riverside County. (Statewide, 23 judgeships were issued.)

As of Dec. 30, Riverside County has dismissed 1,310 cases, including 87 felony and 1,223 misdemeanors.

How can we expect the police to continue to do their jobs if the courts just throw cases out and sentences are delayed for months, and criminals get back on the streets in no time? With California imposing a slew of new laws that went into effect Jan. 1, what good will the laws be if the officers make arrests, only to see the perpetrators quickly freed?

The chilling question after this tragedy remains: How many other high-level offenders with multiple strikes are driving around as we speak? How many court case dismissals have enabled them to do so? How many police officers are being put in unnecessary danger as they simply try to do their job? What about the safety of the general public?

We call on a delegation of leaders from both Riverside and San Bernardino counties to lobby in Sacramento and address this emergency. This is a dual-county issue that must be championed by our local leaders – starting with our state senators, seven members of the Assembly, and 10 county supervisors.

We particularly call on Riverside County Supervisors Kevin Jeffries, Karen Spiegel, Chuck Washington, V. Manuel Perez and Yxstian Gutierrez; San Bernardino County Supervisors Paul Cook, Jesse Armendarez, Dawn Rowe, Curt Hagman and Joe Baca Jr.

Plus state Senators Richard Roth, Steve Padilla, Kelly Seyarto and Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh.

Assembly members Eduardo Garcia, Greg Wallis, Sabrina Cervantes, Corey Jackson, Bill Essayli, Kate Sanchez and Tom Lackey.

It’s an outrage that both civilian and police lives remain in danger because our local leaders have chosen to sit back and say nothing. The death of Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero sadly won’t be the last travesty if law and order cease to mean anything.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Riverside County court dismissals, broken judicial system is dangerous

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