California attorney general Jerry Brown
Paul Wellman

California’s former governor and current attorney general Jerry Brown stopped in Santa Barbara on Thursday to meet with law enforcement agencies from the tri-counties, discussing with them, among other things, rural crime, DNA integration, and restorative policing. He also dished out several awards to area personnel during a luncheon at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

Law enforcement agencies from up and down the coast were in attendance Thursday, including the California Highway Patrol and police departments from Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Oxnard, Pismo Beach, Simi Valley, Santa Paula, and Ventura. The sheriff’s departments of all three counties were in attendance, as well as the Ventura and Santa Barbara district attorneys. Santa Barbara County Senior Dep. Sandra Brown received one of the awards from the attorney general.

Locally, the biggest ongoing impact the state Department of Justice has is its Goleta crime lab, where firearms and ballistic testing take place, as well as DNA analysis. Help from the crime lab often comes when law enforcement is dealing with cases too large or complex, explained Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Erik Raney.

The former mayor of Oakland and onetime Democratic candidate for president said the recent cases of youth violence and gang activity in Santa Barbara isn’t unique to the area, but that it is the number one concern of law enforcement around the state. “It’s a growing problem for police, parents, and educators,” he said, explaining that a lot of kids can’t relate to what’s going on in a classroom because many college prep programs are designed to accommodate a smaller population of students. Trade and vocational education needs to be re-implemented into California schools, he suggested.

Fighting crime, he said, is difficult with so many resources going into the war overseas. “Most of the money is going to fighting the war in Iraq, which means there is less money to fight crime next door,” Brown said.

He called the prison system “broken,” with its needs being swept under the rug. “People shouldn’t get out until they earn their way out,” he said. The system needs to be expanded, beyond creating more jail cells. Supervision once people are released is necessary, he said.

Santa Barbara was the first of eight regional meetings Brown is conducting throughout California. He heads to San Diego next.

The meeting was an opportunity for the attorney general to discuss law enforcement and public safety with local agencies. But in speaking with the press on the Anacapa patio at the DoubleTree, Brown took it a step further and talked about other issues facing the state and country, including the environment. The president has shown he’s not going to do anything about climate change, Brown said, while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken a much more progressive stance.

“Global warming has the potential to be more catastrophic than the Iraq War,” he said. Life will be fundamentally altered by global warming, and it will take long-term planning. Currently, Brown is in a fight to uphold California’s auto emission standards, which have come under fire by the Bush administration. He is fighting for an increased mileage per gallon for vehicles, as oil is a limited resource. Alternatives to oil are also needed, Brown said, even beyond corn and soy bean oil now being used. “We don’t want all of the corn feeding cars instead of people. At some point you reach the peak and we have peaked,” he said.


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