PANEL PROBES DOC MEMO TO LIMIT PLANNED ARRESTS.
An Assembly committee opened a review Wednesday of state Corrections Department correspondence that urged law enforcement to ``pull back'' on planned arrests of parole violators until August because prisons are too crowded.
One of the memos was issued in June, just days before Jose Orozco - a parolee who hadn't reported to his parole agent since early this year - was arrested in the slaying of Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Jerry Ortiz.
``When they sent out a memo unequivocally calling for parole agents to pull back any plans until August of going after parolees at large in sweeps, they have committed the ultimate sin as law enforcement officers,'' said Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, chair of the Select Committee on Prison Construction and Operations.
``They have sent out a message that they are not going to uphold the law and force these very dangerous individuals to comply with the conditions of their parole.''
The Daily News reported Tuesday that Orozco was among roughly 7,000 felons who had failed to report to their parole agents in the county - and more than 19,000 statewide - and are considered ``at large,'' with warrants issued for their arrest.
``It's extremely disturbing that the Department of Corrections would even contemplate not arresting parolees at large,'' Bermudez said.
But state corrections officials say the correspondence was the result of a misunderstanding and it was not the department's intent to halt sweeps for parole violators.
``Public safety has always been our No. 1 concern,'' said Todd Slosek a Corrections Department spokesman. ``It was simply a directive to let us know when (parolee-at-large) sweeps were going to be scheduled so we could prepare our inmate population for receipt of 100 or 200 parolees.
``The memo was misinterpreted by one regional administrator who then sent out his own directive to his staff, stating that the department has decided to halt (parolee-at-large) sweeps, which is absolutely not the case.''
A memo sent June 13 by Marilyn Kalvelage, assistant deputy director of the state's Parole and Community Services Division, to parole agents urged them to ``pull back'' on any parolee at large sweeps until ``at least August'' because of prison overcrowding.
``The Institutions Division is facing a very serious reality where they may be pushed into refusing intake,'' Kalvelage wrote. ``We don't want to add to that burden or that decision as it is a very costly one.''
In a June 23 memo, Kalvelage wrote that her earlier memo was not intended to imply ``that business as usual would not continue and that agents would not respond to parolee delinquent and criminal behavior appropriately.''
County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said that ``there has never been a case where somebody has not been gone after because there was no place to put them.''
``The main job of every law enforcement agency is to protect the public,'' Whitmore said.
The Los Angeles Police Department, which works with both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Probation to track down parole and probation violators, did not receive any message to back off violators due to overcrowded prisons, Assistant Chief George Gascon said.
Police officials said they also did not notice any changes in the field.
``If you have people that are committing violent crimes in our community, I don't think it is conscionable for us or the state government to say we're going to let those people roam around the streets because we don't have enough space,'' Gascon said. ``It's an obligation of government to find the space.''
Bermudez said it's essential for law enforcement officers to track down parolees at large.
``These are your rapists, robbers, murderers and drug dealers,'' Bermudez said. ``When you look at police shootings, you'll find parolees- at-large have been involved in the homicides of officers throughout the state. Parolees-at-large are your most dangerous criminal because they are on the run and they have nothing to lose.''
Staff writer Josh Kleinbaum contributed to this report.
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 7, 2005|
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