The San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury released a report on Wednesday, May 22, criticizing law enforcement communication with each other and calling for an increase in police staffing and jail space.
The public safety report focused mostly on the larger departments of the sheriff’s office and Stockton Police Department, but did call for potential changes to staffing and use of technology among the 8-sworn officer department of Escalon.
The report mentioned three concerns – police staffing, lack of jail space for criminals, and lack of inter-agency communication by leaders – stating that although officials are doing all they can to protect the public, countless issues are challenges to organizations with diminishing budgets.
According to the report, “…there are examples of cooperation between different agencies in the county but each agency still operates autonomously most of the time.”
Citing successes in Las Vegas and the Miami-Dade area of Florida, jury members recommended city council members of all cities form a committee to conduct a study on how to increase countywide efficiency of law enforcement agencies by taking a regional approach to some or all of their services.
The report stated, “…there are similar concerns for other common functions of each law enforcement agency. Each law enforcement agency has its own property room. Each agency (except for Escalon) has its own dispatch center. Each agency has its own investigation technicians (or staff trained to conduct crime scene investigations). Most agencies have their own detective group. It could be more efficient if some or all of these functions were coordinated throughout the County.”
The report also mentioned SWAT units, gang teams, and narcotic investigations stating that the duplication of these special units, specialized training and police functions causes inefficient use of limited resources.
Though it did mention that multi-agency task forces and that partnerships were formed to target some areas of concern – the county-wide gang task force, the Metropolitan Explosive Ordinance Team, Delta Ratt Auto Theft Task Force and the County Firearms Reduction Consortium – it did note that Escalon and Ripon, because of their small size, did not participate and thus, did not get the benefits.
The grand jury expects a report from the ad-hoc city council committee by the end of the year for actions to be taken at the start of 2014.
The sheriff’s department and each city’s police department are also to review their current use of crime prevention technologies and develop a plan to implement new technologies that could help increase the efficiency of their agencies.
“The number, differences and variety of equipment used can also cause inefficiencies” the report said. “This is most noticeable in computer systems. Different agencies use different software programs. These computer programs do not easily share information. Each agency operates its own computer network creating additional inefficiencies. Therefore, when a police officer enters data into his/her agency’s program, the same data may need to be re-entered into the County’s system when the defendant is booked into the jail.”
Regarding police staffing, the jury remarked that various police agencies had lost personnel over the last few years that had not been replaced.
Council members of all cities were recommended to adopt a policy that states it is a priority of their city to increase law enforcement staffing by September 2013.
In addition to police staffing, the jury requested the county Board of Supervisors increase funding and make staffing a priority at the Sheriff’s Office, the probation department, the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office by September.