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Calif. city joins suit against LA County zero-bail policy

Manhattan Beach is the 26th LA County city to join the lawsuit, which alleges that eliminating cash bail will increase crime


Manhattan Beach Police Department

By Tyler Shaun Evains
Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif.

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Manhattan Beach is the latest city seeking an injunction against Los Angeles County’s new zero-bail policy.

The City Council voted unanimously this week to join an impending lawsuit, which has more than 25 other municipalities fighting against the county’s move to eliminate cash-bail for some low-level misdemeanors and non-violent crimes. The L.A. County Superior Court rolled out the rules, officially called the Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, on Oct. 1.

A dozen cities, led by Whittier, kicked off the effort late last month to stop the new bail schedule, which local officials have said will increase crime. Manhattan Beach Councilmember Joe Franklin proposed earlier this month that the city join the effort “to safeguard public safety.”

It’s unclear when Whittier will file the lawsuit. But it’ll cost Manhattan Beach $10,000 to join, George Gabriel, assistant to the city manager, said at the Tuesday council meeting, though it could also be less than that depending on how many more cities join the effort. Up to eight more cities are set to do so, Gabriel said, pending OKs from their respective councils.

Retail theft, car burglaries and drug sales are among the offenses folks can be cited and released for without bail.

The protocols, according to proponents, strive to balance equity for those accused for such crimes, allowing people who can’t afford the price of bail to have the same chance at being released from police custody before appearing in court as those who can afford it.

“Individuals who are higher risk to the community are either being released with conditions, or being held for arraignment because there are no conditions where they can be safely released,” David Slayton, executive officer for LA County Superior Court, said previously. “They are being considered not based upon their money, but based upon their risk.”

People arrested in connection with serious crimes, such as murder, would not be eligible for zero-bail release.

But the concept has riled up some public safety concerns, particularly following a recent wave of mob-style smash-and-grab burglaries and reports of arrestees being quickly released and reoffending.

The new system is borne from long-held criticism that cash bail favored people with high incomes, meaning well-heeled people arrested for even the most serious of crimes could pay their way out of jail, while lower income people languished behind bars for far lesser offenses.

The new system is based not on cash, but rather on the risk an offender presents to public safety or the possibility the person might fail to appear in court.

The county initially implemented a zero-bail system during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to prevent crowding in jails. Then in May, a Los Angeles judge issued a preliminary injunction essentially reinstating the system by ordering an end to cash bail by the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments.


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