Attempts at criminal bail reform that put violent offenders like Waukesha suspect Darrell Brooks Jr. out on the street at low or no cost is endangering communities around the country, according to experts on criminal justice and law enforcement.
Police in cities including Milwaukee, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are facing understaffing and low morale — in part due to such policies, according to Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant and spokesperson for the National Police Association.
"These extremely liberal prosecutors who want to talk about restorative justice, and what that means is is that we are putting the public in danger by trying to give these people too many opportunities to re-offend," she said. "It's incredibly frustrating for law enforcement, and it's just absolutely dangerous for our communities."
She pointed to Milwaukee prosecutors’ decision earlier this month to request just $1,000 bail for Brooks, who had a violent criminal history stretching back to 1999 and an active warrant for jumping bail on a sex crime charge in Nevada.
Brantner Smith acknowledged that high bail for minor and nonviolent offenses is unfair, but Brooks’ history is extreme: multiple firearms and battery convictions, strangulation, sex offenses and drug charges on a 50-page rap sheet that spans three states.
On Sunday, he allegedly plowed through a crowd of innocent people attending a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing at least six and injuring dozens. The criminal complaint alleges that one of the arresting officers observed him with "no emotion on his face."
"When we arrest somebody, especially for a violent crime, and they're out almost immediately and then they re-offend — that wears on the absolute soul of police officers," Brantner Smith said.
Progressive district attorneys from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, places Brantner Smith singled out, did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment on the Waukesha case, bail reform and the intersection of the two. Neither did a half-dozen other prosecutors.
John Chisholm, the left-wing DA from Milwaukee, announced Tuesday that his office was opening an internal investigation into its own bail recommendation for Brooks earlier this month. The assistant district attorney on the case requested a $1,000 sum despite Brooks’ staggering criminal past and an outstanding warrant in Nevada for bail jumping. The court granted it.
"The state’s bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks," Chisholm’s office said in a statement announcing the investigation. "The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office toward matters involving violent crime."
Earlier this year, another judge had to release Brooks for just $500 due to court scheduling backlogs that would have violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial, Chisholm’s office said Monday.
Chisholm’s counterpart in nearby Waukesha took a different approach in her bail request against Brooks Tuesday, making good on her pledge to seek something so high he would have no chance of paying it.
She sought and received $5 million bail on five charges of first-degree intentional homicide, Wisconsin’s equivalent of first-degree murder. If convicted on all counts, the longtime felon would face five consecutive life sentences. A sixth charge is expected following the death of another victim, this one a child, who had been hospitalized for two days.
Police identified the five adults killed Sunday as Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.
Mike Padden, a Minnesota-based defense attorney who also practices in Wisconsin, called the fact that Brooks had been freed just three weeks ago "pitiful."
"He never should have been let out [earlier this month] because of the warrant from Nevada, but even if there wasn't a warrant in Nevada, the bail should have been sufficient," he said. "This could easily fall in the category of attempted murder."
In that case, Brooks allegedly punched a woman in the face, stole her cellphone and ran her over with the same SUV he’s accused of plowing through dozens of people at the parade Sunday evening.
"This is so egregious that somebody should lose their job over it," he said. "That’s how bad this is."
Maybe prosecutors are starting to take notice.
San Francisco’s DA Chesa Boudin, whose parents were both sent to prison for felony murder and who declined to comment for this story, announced felony charges against nine people Tuesday evening in connection with a retail shoplifting ring.
Boudin is facing a recall election over his own record as a prosecutor — which includes disputes over his progressive policies and criticism after a parolee allegedly used a stolen car to mow down two women on a San Francisco street on New Year's Eve.