Former Poway mayor and San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith discussed the upheavals to society in 2020 caused by the twin disasters of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rioting following the killing of Black men by police during an Aug. 28 ZOOM meeting of the Coronado Roundtable. In a two-part presentation, Goldsmith first reviewed the impact of the pandemic on the economy and human behavior and followed with his views on the need for some law and order reforms but not defunding police or indiscriminately letting criminals out of prison.

The speaker described the widespread urban disorder as the worst he’s observed in his lifetime, exceeding even the anti-Vietnam War protests. Future generations, he warned, will look back on the 2020 upheavals as truly terrible. He decried the abandonment of values by rioters resulting in injuries, deaths, damage, looting and the taking over of sections of cities creating an atmosphere of fear adding to that generated by the pandemic. There is, he said, a significant erosion of law and order in progress and it’s getting worse, citing as an example, dramatically increased crime in cities like New York where he once felt safe walking the streets. He compared the drastic reduction in crime under Rudy Giuliani’s implementation of the “broken window” policy with what we’re seeing today.

He agreed with the need to aggressively weed out bad police officers. No one wants this more, he said, than the great majority who are good police officers but calls to reduce the role of police in our communities are nonsense. Calls to eliminate police departments altogether are indicative, he added, of mental instability because doing so would have unimaginable consequences. Responding to traffic stops or domestics disturbances is dangerous work which needs to be done by trained and armed police officers because they never know what to expect when they approach a stopped vehicle or enter a building.

There is no first amendment right to riot or deface buildings, Goldsmith said. The consequence of this erosion of law and order is a breakdown in society itself resulting in mob rule where the treatment of people depends on whether or not the mob approves of them. He criticized what he termed as a subjective view of the law in that if a law is not being enforced, people don’t feel they need to comply with it which makes us all less safe and leads to more laws being ignored.

Ignoring youthful misdemeanors until a serious felony is committed is a mistake, the speaker said, and he urged early intervention with youthful offenders so that early on they learn that criminal behavior has real consequences. He also urged more use of probation as a corrective tool to help redirect youthful offenders. He said that criminality typically begins with fatherless or drug-afflicted families. If we wish to end generational crime, he said, we have to focus more on the home environment and better education.

In addition to serving as Poway mayor and San Diego City Attorney, Goldsmith was a state legislator and a Superior Court Judge. He was introduced by Roundtable Board Member Dr. Suzanne Popp. Roundtable President Kirk Henry presided. The Coronado Roundtable presents prominent speakers on a variety of topics at its monthly meetings on the fourth Friday of every month except December. Meetings begin at 10 a.m. and are currently being conducted by ZOOM in view of the pandemic restrictions.

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