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Ventura County News Roundup

COUNTYWIDE : County Issue Booking Fees : The state Legislature voted in July to allow counties to charge cities every time a police officer books a suspect into jail. Police chiefs are lobbying to have the booking fee eliminated. The county has said it needs the funds because of cutbacks in state and federal money. Should the Legislature overturn the booking fee?

January 02, 1991

Robert Owens, Oxnard police chief Yes, very definitely. The Legislature demonstrated very poor judgment in facilitating the counties cannibalizing of the cities. This is just the most recent example of this sort of behavior. I'm sure the county can make a good case for needing the money, but pitting the counties against the cities is certainly not going to do anything for criminal justice. It is merely a case of looking around to see where money can be obtained. The county has said cities have greater abilities to generate tax revenue than do counties. I cannot attest to that, looking at the financial picture here in Oxnard. Forecasting our budget for the coming year and taking into account the loss of revenue from booking fees means we'll be losing positions, looking at layoffs. The picture looks rather bleak. The state Legislature needs to take a look at the budget in a broader perspective. The piecemeal approach used to generate revenue doesn't do the general fund for the state or the cities much good.

Larry Carpenter, Ventura County undersheriff

Sometimes people cut off one end of the blanket and sew it to the other end and wonder why it doesn't get any longer. I think that analogy applies to what's happening with booking fees. I think that the money needs to come from somewhere, but there is no question that the shortfall from the state has severely impacted the counties and the cities. If there is a way to overturn the booking fees and still make state money available to the counties to replace that money, then I would agree with it. There is a mad dash for revenue, which is appropriate, but we need to be careful where the revenue is coming from. Some cities are attempting to recover that money from the arrested person. I feel that is very appropriate--penalty assessments implemented at the time of sentencing. As part of probation, a judge can demand a certain amount of money be repaid. Cities can certainly recoup booking fees and the actual cost of investigation and arrest and so forth. Since the bulk of arrests made in cities are drunk drivers, I think cities are specifically looking at those.

Cathie M. Wright, Assemblywoman (R-Simi Valley)

It is not just a yes or no answer. I voted against the bill to start out with because I was against the idea of turning around and not only charging booking fees but for collection of property tax. If you remove the booking fees, the county will turn around and charge a higher fee for collecting taxes. For example, if they feel they're $100,000 short and $50,000 was going to be property tax and booking fees, they'll take $100,000 from property tax to make up the difference. That just makes sense. This bill was part of the so-called balancing budget in July. The Legislature, in their haste to put this budget together with chewing gum, really messed up the balance. I'm totally opposed to it, and I firmly believe there should be a repeal of the legislation. But there has to be a source found to give the money to the counties. Looking at what you do to try to eliminate the costs of the cities and yet give the counties what is theirs from the state is not a simple situation of "don't charge booking fees."

Lindsey P. Miller, Simi Valley police chief Yes. I don't think any of the chiefs dispute the need for the counties to have additional revenue, but we all believe that this was a poor way for the Legislature to attempt to find more money to aid the counties. In effect, it creates a monetary penalty every time a city police department books somebody into the jail system. I think what it does is have a dampening effect on the overall effectiveness of the criminal justice system. Years ago, there was a bounty system. In the Old West, a person could be paid for arresting someone, but the state abolished it as a practice. What the booking fee does, in effect, is to create a reverse bounty. Not only is there no reward, it is a monetary penalty. I would say other departments have reacted very strongly to it, so they're taking fewer people to jail to avoid the booking fee. In this department, we've made no policy changes because we're located in the southeastern part of the county and it is a time-consuming process to take people to jail. We make sure they need to be arrested.

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