Friday, March 23, 2012

San Luis Obispo County: Sheriff wants more hours for commander in charge of professional standards

By Bob Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert - - The Tribune

The man hired to oversee the professional standards unit at the Sheriff’s Office needs more time to do the job thoroughly, according to Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve additional hours.

The timing of Parkinson’s request is serendipitous for him: On Thursday, the county’s civil grand jury issued a report praising Parkinson for hiring James Voge and for re-establishing the professional standards unit in February 2011. The unit had been dissolved under former Sheriff Pat Hedges.

Voge, who served 33 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, ran the Internal Affairs Group there and has expertise in “the area of internal discipline,” to use Parkinson’s phrase. He was hired as a part-time contract employee.

Parkinson said the professional standards unit under Voge has developed new procedures, forms and reporting. Among the unit’s responsibilities are handling complaints from the public and conducting internal investigations, Parkinson wrote in a report to the county board.

Parkinson’s action drew accolades from the county’s civil grand jury.

The grand jury found that since the unit was restored, “the percentage of sustained complaints has been reduced and the overall tracking of citizen complaints has been improved.”

In his report to supervisors, Parkinson noted some of Voge’s accomplishments to date.
Among them:

• Improved reporting, including complaint forms and “use of force” reports that allow an analysis of the causes of a particular incident.

• Buying new software that allows more efficient handling of citizens’ complaints and administrative investigations.

• Developing and teaching an eight-hour course titled “Officer-involved shootings and lethal use of force by law enforcement.”

Voge also is developing a course on internal affairs.

Voge needs more than the 960 hours for which he was hired as a temporary employee, Parkinson wrote. He wants to add more hours for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and then hire him full time for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Parkinson is asking supervisors to approve an additional $61,190 for the rest of this fiscal year. He will include his request for Voge to become full time in his 2013-14 budget proposal.

The grand jury also reviewed policies kept by each of the seven police departments in the county and found the agencies are now conducting investigations into citizen complaints “in a positive and effective manner.”

Jury recommendations

The grand jury report made a few recommendations, which the police departments are required to respond to by June 18. The jury recommended the Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Morro Bay, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo police departments add citizen complaint forms to their websites.

The jury also found the Sheriff’s Office has an outdated system of video recording in its vehicles and suggested the equipment be upgraded with digital recording devices.
Cmdr. Aaron Nix said that enough money has been budgeted to upgrade the equipment in patrol cars assigned to two of the department’s three stations, hopefully by the end of the summer, at an estimated cost of $70,000 per station.

The Sheriff’s Office has until May 19 to respond.

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