Column

COLUMN: Sheriff’s roundup- the carrot and the stick

Sheriff Eric Taylor writes about issues facing California Public Safety and society.

This column was contributed by San Benito County Sheriff Eric Taylor. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

 

It is very important to me that our community takes note of something I feel is imperative to discuss at this point in time. Though we enjoy strong local support in our office from all of you, we are at a crossroads in this state, and in this country. Having said that, we all have the power and opportunity to choose what direction we go. Author Oscar Wilde said, “It is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done.” Much of the criminal reform in this state originated from a good place, from good intentions. However, we have taken things a bit too far in the reduction of criminal penalties for bad behavior. The pendulum has swung way too far to the side of supposed “compassion” for the accused. We need to get back to the middle. There is nothing compassionate about how we are letting lives be lost and wasted in our communities.

This state, and our society, are in rough shape. That is strange as our overall state economy is doing well and, in fact, we have a budget surplus in California. Yet, our streets are full of the unhoused and mentally ill, and our children are dying from overdoses at a rate never seen before. I am all for intervention and prevention, but it only works if there is enforcement of law on the other side. It’s the old “carrot and the stick” analogy. The two philosophies need to coexist. Without a symbiotic relationship, things get out of balance and lives are affected.

Major issues in California:

We have some major issues facing us as a state and a nation. Retail theft takeover squads have begun to wreak havoc, mostly here in California. That is due, in part, to the penalties for theft and burglary being almost non-existent. Our court-imposed restrictions on dealing with the unhoused has frustrated our residents and endangered our neighborhoods. The opioid crisis is at a boiling point. According to data from health authorities, between February 2021 and February 2022, almost 109,000 people lost their lives to fentanyl/drug overdose in this country. 109,000! Homicides by firearm in the United States have averaged from 10,000 to 20,000 (total deaths from guns are higher, including suicides) per year since 1999. That means death by drugs/fentanyl is five times that of firearms used in homicides.

However, we are passing more restrictive gun laws while reducing penalties for drug possession, sales and use. It does not make sense.

It is time for us to lean on our legislators to pass laws that do make sense. Yes, historically law enforcement has been too heavy-handed on those who face homelessness, addiction, and mental health disorders. But not everyone will chase the carrot on their own. Sometimes you need the threat of the stick to get people to change their ways. Though the choice of words may leave room for improvement, the idea of the carrot and the stick is purely illustrative and not meant to be literal. It is nothing more than a motivational tactic that uses a reward and punishment system to encourage improved performance or behavior.

Choices:

For instance, if a person wants to take advantage of a treatment or housing program, the reward should be they maintain their freedom and free-will. If they refuse to accept the many programs and opportunities offered, they will face consequences for their behavior, and their freedom will be at risk. These are basic rules of a civilized society. However, if violent crimes occur, if property is taken from another, and if a person is violated sexually, then we need to have the laws in place to arrest and prosecute for the crimes committed to others. We can have compassion for the offender, but we cannot put the offender above the victim.

As far as mental health and homelessness are concerned, there is no longer a consequence for illegally camping and we lack the resources for true mental health treatment. This county does not even have a secure behavioral health facility for us to take suicidal persons. The de-facto location is Hazel Hawkins which is terribly inappropriate. A regional hospital emergency room is not the place for homicidal and suicidal people. So, they end up in our jail, another place that is not conducive to treatment.

Police reform and vilification of public safety:

Whether you choose to see it, or not, I can assure you implicit bias exists and there has been institutional racism in our country. That does not mean mistreatment of others is always an intentional act. But our human nature has caused pain and grief for many who are less fortunate than others. It is for this reason we are in the midst of supposed police reform. However, the knee-jerk reaction of the “de-fund” movement has left many communities in peril.

All this is happening at a time when law enforcement is being vilified in the country. That has a direct impact on our youth who are looking to other callings and professions and steering away from public safety/law enforcement. This has left a huge vacuum as many veterans are leaving because the laws have tied their hands and youngsters don’t want to enter a profession where they will be vilified, sued, and berated for merely doing their job.

We enjoy great quality of life in San Benito County. It is safe. It is family oriented. I feel fortunate I was able to raise my children here. If you scour social media to see what people gripe about, you will see we are actually in great shape if those are our main concerns.

The time is now to:

  • Study your ballots, your candidates, and the measures
  • Track the voting record of your legislators
  • See what rulings the judges are making at the state and national levels
  • Look at the plethora of assembly and senate bills being proposed to further erode public safety

We have options:

Let’s make sure we protect justice while offering opportunities to those who want to better themselves. But, let’s not live in a society where crimes go unpunished and victims are cast aside to cater to those who commit crimes against others. There needs to be a balance folks. Our office has the perfect blend of compassion and empathy for those who are in a bad place in life, and also a drive to seek justice for those affected by crime. Together we can make a real difference.

Sheriff Eric Taylor

I am the Sheriff and Coroner for the San Benito County Sheriff's Office. I have over 20 years of law enforcement experience. I am in my 8th year in the San Benito County Sheriff's Office and also served the Watsonville Police Department for 15 years. I am a court-certified expert in Hispanic Criminal Street Gangs and Use of Force. The views expressed in my column are my own and are not reflective of the County of San Benito.