Kate Tibbitts Act targeting ‘high-risk’ transient parolees fails in committee

Daniel Macht – KCRA3

A bill aimed at improving the ability of parole agents to keep tabs on transient parolees who have been convicted of violent crimes, or who are required to register as sex offenders, has failed in committee. 

Assembly Bill 1827 is named The Kate Tibbitts Act of 2022 after the 61-year-old homeowner in Sacramento’s Land Park neighborhood who was killed along with her two dogs in September.https://6957656f4b15684d19ea8e102911019d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlAdvertisement

The suspect in the case, Troy Davis, is a convicted violent felon who was on probation at the time of the killing. He had been allowed to get out of jail after an arrest in June for stealing a car and his parole officer was never notified of that arrest, KCRA 3 Investigates reported. That arrest would likely have been a violation of his probation.

Assemblymember Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, said Tuesday that the bill he authored in honor of Tibbitts failed in a key Assembly public safety committee

  • Those who voted in favor of the bill were: Assemblymembers Tom Lackey, R-High Desert, and Kelly Seyarto, R-Murrieta.
  • Those who voted it down were: Mia Bonta, D-Oakland; Isaac Bryan, D-Baldwin Hills; Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles; and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.
  • No vote was recorded from Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles.

“I am very disappointed,” Cooper said in a statement. “My heart goes out to the family of Kate Tibbitts. Sadly, five of the members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee think that it’s OK to not hold high-risk parolees accountable.”

Cooper, who is also running for sheriff in Sacramento County, has said that many “high-risk” parolees, like in the Tibbits case, have limited contact with their parole agent and that’s especially true with people who are transient. 

His office says there are more than 2,200 people on parole in Sacramento County, including 370 people without a home address. It’s not clear how many of those are in the high-risk category the legislation would target. 

Cooper said that under the current law, if a parolee fails to meet obligations that include regularly reporting to a parole agent, they could be taken into custody but that action is optional. 

AB 1827 would require all high-risk parolees who say they are transient to wear a location-monitoring device until their address is confirmed. 

It would also make it a misdemeanor offense when a high-risk parolee knowingly refuses to report to their agent and could face up to six months in county jail if convicted. Cooper’s office said the bill would also grant authority to the courts to revisit the stipulations of the parole. 

The bill has the support of Tibbitts’ brother, Dan Tibbitts, who criticized its failure in committee. 

“It is frustrating and painful to know that today the Legislature failed to take steps in preventing future tragedies like the one that our family experienced,” Dan Tibbitts said in a statement. “The legislation authored by Assemblymember Jim Cooper and named after our late sister would have made a difference in holding criminals accountable and protecting the public.” 

The bill has also been supported by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the Peace Officers Research Association of California. 

Among those opposing the bill are ACLU California Action, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association.

An analysis of the bill prepared by the committee’s chief counsel noted possible due process constitutional concerns that could lead to legal challenges.

| RELATED | Read a committee analysis of the bill and see arguments in favor and in opposition here.

Other issues could include a lack of funding for additional parole agents to take advantage of GPS monitoring and that the GPS requirement itself could make it harder for parolees to reintegrate into society, according to the analysis. 

“Specifically, while formerly incarcerated persons already face challenges in obtaining employment, a prospective employer is arguably even less likely to hire an individual with a GPS monitor,” the public safety committee’s chief counsel Sandy Uribe wrote. 

ACLU California Action said in its opposition to the bill that an unforeseen emergency or compulsory work obligation are two reasons why someone may miss reporting to their parole officer. 

“This bill removes the discretion of the parole officer to consider the situation,” the group said. “Individuals on parole already face the possibility of being remanded back to prison for violations of parole. This bill is unnecessarily punitive and reflects much of the harsh political rhetoric that contributed to extensive and inhumane prison overcrowding in California.”

Davis is next due in court on June 10 for settlement conferences, which are informal talks about possible resolution, according to Sacramento County Superior Court.