Thursday, January 12, 2012

Monterey County officials respond to grand jury findings

Many recommendations for jail, youth center are already under way.

The - 11:06 PM, Jan. 11, 2012.

A day after the 2011 Monterey County Civil Grand Jury Report was released, two top officials whose departments were criticized responded to its findings and recommendations.

The grand jury, in the Monday-released report, surmised that staffing shortages and overtime at the county jail, and insufficient security policies at the youth center possibly placed the public at risk.

The jail and detention center were two of four areas reviewed by the 13-member grand jury. The areas included: the detention facilities, welfare operations, special districts and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.

According to the report, inadequate staffing at the jail caused hours of overtime to some deputies, leading to sleep deprivation. The report pointed to one deputy in August who had worked 124 hours of overtime. It also found that in one particular month, only 62 of 84 sworn officers were available for duty.

County Sheriff Scott Miller had some blunt words about the report, adding that no grand jurors had met with him.

"I respect the grand jury a great degree. They're very fine individuals, but generally their investigations are very superficial," said Miller, adding that he hadn't read the report.

"When you don't speak with the individual involved in policymaking, then you haven't done a thorough job in giving this weight."

Deal on overtime
After months of discussion, he said, an agreement has been made with the Deputy Sheriff's Association to cap the overtime. Now, he said, there is no policy that limits the overtime amount.

"We're establishing those limits," he said. "It's already been done and we're putting it in writing."

Addressing the jail staffing shortage, Miller said, the Sheriff's Office has been approved to hire 12 civilian control operators who'll be tasked with manning the control booths at the jail. This will free up deputies to work in other areas. Miller said he hopes to have those civilian positions in place in the next 90 days.

The sheriff acknowledged one or two of the 300-plus deputies working significant overtime and said he hasn't received any complaints.

"I have absolutely zero complaints for the amount of overtime that they have to work that I'm aware of," Miller said. "Those deputies embrace working those (voluntary) hours."

Findings deemed to be 'fairly accurate'
Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Marcia Parsons called the report's finding "fairly accurate," especially about the outdated case management system. The grand jury, according to its report, had requested data for repeat offenses for juvenile who went through any intervention programs and first-time offender programs for the past five years.

That requested level of detail, Parsons said, posed a roadblock for the staff.

"We fully recognize that our old case management system was inadequate," she said.

Parsons said a new system was implemented in April 2011 to address those issues.

As for the concerns about the security breaches at the youth detention center, she said, changes are under way. A total of nine juveniles of the facility escaped in three separate incidents in August and September.

Some of the improvements, Parsons said, include reinforcing the front gate, adding no-climb fencing to the inside of the facility's perimeter and placing an officer inside the rooms during group sessions.

"It's been going well," she said. "We haven't suffered any further escapes and we're gradually getting back to normal. The youths have been very, very confined in the escapes and we're gradually giving them the flexibility and programming."

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