Mark Bustillos

It’s time for a little less tolerance

Mark BustillosCONCORD, CA (Dec. 9, 2021) — I was going to write this month’s column about the recent smash and grab robberies in the Bay Area and how they have impacted Concord. However, a recent incident has impacted me greatly and caused me to reflect on crime in the Bay Area and Concord more broadly.

I was rocked to the core by the Oakland homicide of KRON news security officer Kevin Nishita at the hands of an armed robber. He was senselessly gunned down because someone wanted the news crew’s camera.

I knew Kevin when he worked as an officer at my former agency. He was kind and had an infectious smile. He would go out of his way to help people on calls and was genuinely the type of person I want to hire as a Concord Police Officer. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends. Sadly, he survived a career in law enforcement only to be killed at a job taken in retirement.

Kevin was shot and killed while guarding a news crew who was doing a story on a smash and grab burglary in Oakland. Think about that for a minute. Do we even blink at the fact that a news crew needs an armed guard to do a story? How is that even acceptable in a democratic society?

As the head of a police department, I accept that I serve the residents of Concord (and more broadly the state) and oversee the enforcement of laws as voted upon by the public. However, it has been rather challenging lately.

First, there was Prop. 47, which lessened penalties for many “lower level” crimes – especially theft and narcotic crimes. Next, the public voted in progressive district attorneys who prefer keeping defendants out of incarceration (jail) for the same “low level” crimes.

Now, we are supposed to be shocked that mobs of young adults go en masse into stores and take what they want, seemingly without any thought of getting caught and charged with a crime. This did not occur in a vacuum. The table was set by laws and policies creating an environment of no or low consequences for “low level” theft.

Add in the fact that nearly all police agencies in the area are at historic staffing lows and you have a perfect storm for what is occurring.
I am not sure where it will end, but what I do know is that the public is fed up with what they are seeing and experiencing. I tell my staff frequently that in a 30-year career, you will see the pendulum swing back and forth in law enforcement at least three times. Seemingly, every decade brings new philosophies in how to deal with crime (zero tolerance, three strikes, mandatory sentencing, etc.).

My hope is that the public is ready to swing back a little bit from where we are currently. Not holding arrestees accountable for low-level crimes has thus far been a failure. I am ready for a change.

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