Police union leaders are blaming the ACLU for the recent smash-and-grab robberies that have plagued California ahead of the holiday shopping season.
"When society removes accountability for bad behavior, criminals get emboldened to commit more crimes, drug addicts thumb their noses at mandatory treatment and vandalism and petty theft turn into riotous looting and murder," the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Craig Lally, told Fox News.
"One does not need to be clairvoyant to have predicted that in California the ACLU’s Proposition 47 would turn a family trip to the mall or a Home Depot into a dangerous gamble for our residents."
The Los Angeles Police Protective League is among a list of police unions that are sponsoring a website called ACLU Watch, which is "dedicated to fighting for victim’s rights, accountability for criminals, and exposing those that defend the indefensible."
The website launched this week and includes data on issues such as "weakening public safety," "undermining victims' rights," "sexual offenders" and "hate groups white supremacists." Sponsors of the site include the San José Police Officers Association, the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the San Diego Police Officers Association, the Sacramento Police Officers Association, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
California has been hit with repeated instances of smash-and-grabs in the last two weeks, with suspects often escaping with thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise from high-end stores.
In one of the most high-profile cases, a mob of about 80 people wearing ski masks and holding crowbars stormed a Nordstrom location in Walnut Creek, which is about 25 miles outside San Francisco. They managed to steal up to $200,000 in merchandise.
Under Proposition 47, passed in 2014, shoplifting charges regarding the theft of $950 or less were lowered from felonies to misdemeanors. Supporters of the ballot measure included then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, then-state Sen. Darrell Steinberg and other Democrats in the state.
Among organizations that supported the measure was the ACLU.
"Californians have an historic opportunity to bring about needed and long-overdue criminal justice reform by voting Yes on Proposition 47," ACLU NorCal wrote in a post in 2014.
"If it passes, California will lead the nation in ending felony sentencing for the lowest level, non-violent crimes, permanently reduce incarceration and shift $1 billion in the next five years alone from the state corrections department to K-12 school programs and mental health and drug treatment," the post continued.
Six years later, police leaders are saying the ACLU "lied" to voters about the ballot measure.
"San Francisco voters were lied to by the ACLU. Voters were told that prosecuting thieves was really a racist attack on people of color whose only real crime was poverty. So Proposition 47, the so-called Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, lowered felonies to misdemeanors for theft of goods valued at $950 dollars or less," San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya told Fox News Digital.
"Talk about rolling out the red carpet for criminals, these smash-and-grab thieves aren’t stealing groceries to feed their families, they are ransacking and clearing out high-end stores to sell those goods to the highest bidder to fuel their criminal behavior or their drug habits."
Sean Pritchard, the president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, told Fox News that the ACLU is also pushing for reduced bail initiatives and cited the case of Waukesha Christmas parade suspect Darrell Brooks, who was released on low bail twice this year in Wisconsin.
"Across the country the ACLU is pushing for no bail or drastically reduced bail similar to what the hate-filled repeat offender Darrell Brooks was out on prior to him running down and killing innocent people at the Waukesha, Wisconsin, Christmas parade," Pritchard said. "If Brooks was held in custody for his most recent offense on a bail amount commensurate with his extensive criminal history then those innocent parade goers would be alive today."
In Seattle, where the defund the police movement was championed last year, many progressives were defeated in this month’s election by moderate candidates who advocated for adding police officers to the force.
"Seattle voters just rejected the socialist anti-public safety agenda promoted by the ACLU, it is no accident," Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, told Fox News. "When residents of any city do not feel safe walking down the street, don’t feel safe shopping or traveling throughout their city, then society is broken. The truth is that the ACLU and other like-minded organizations have abandoned all pretense of what is right and wrong and strictly focus on how to help criminals at the expense of crime victims…they have lost their way."
California’s Newsom called on the state’s mayors last week to "step up" and hold the mobs of shoplifters to "account" following the repeated crimes.
"I'm not the mayor of California, but I was a mayor, and I know when things like this happen, mayors have to step up," Newsom said last Monday at a vaccine clinic in the Mission District of San Francisco. "That’s not an indictment. That’s not a cheap shot."
But days later, the crimes continued over Thanksgiving weekend and even left a former San Jose police officer who was working as a security guard in Oakland dead.
Kevin Nishita was fatally shot during an armed robbery while protecting a news crew covering a previous smash-and-grab theft.
"It is with the deepest sadness that I let you know security guard Kevin Nishita has passed away," said Mark Neerman, vice president of news and news director at KPIX. "He died protecting one of our own, a colleague reporting on the very violence that took his life. I know you join me in sending condolences to his family and in sending thanks to Kevin for standing up for us all."
A spokesperson for Newsom's office told Fox News late Tuesday that "shoplifting and retail theft crime rings are unacceptable."
"The Governor expects these perpetrators to be prosecuted and held accountable for their crimes. He has also taken immediate action to increase CHP presence on highways near popular shopping areas statewide. This year, Governor Newsom signed legislation to extend the California Highway Patrol Organized Retail Crime Task Force, and he is committed to taking additional action in his January budget."
The ACLU did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment on the remarks from the police leaders denouncing the ACLU and its support of liberal initiatives.