Tuesday, March 31, 2015

[Tulare County] Grand Jury didn’t receive Richgrove complaint until ’13

It would sure be nice if Ruben Macareno could have checked with the grand jury on what is going on and get a few facts straight. He said we need to be more diversified, well, Mr. Macareno, we can be no more diversified then we are now. We have a cross section of Tulare County citizens.
The Tulare County Grand Jurors’ Association has been recruiting for the grand jury for a couple of years now. They do an extremely good job at speaking to clubs in Tulare County, recruiting live on Central Valley Talk and speaking on the radio.
Mr. Macareno states he recognizes some names on the grand jury that have served for 20 years. I have yet to find anyone who has been on the grand jury for 20 years. I hope he will provide us with those names so I can check it out. I would like to know where Mr. Macareno got his facts.
Now let’s put the report “Chaos and Confusion in Richgrove” straight. You say we were four to five years late, well we did not receive a complaint until the jury term of 2013-14. The grand jury needed more time to fully investigate this complaint, to speak to witness and receive documents, so they decided to hold it over for another year. Unfortunately, Alex Hernandez was not cooperative in our investigation, even trying to fire the certified public accountant who was trying to put in all the safety stops to keep embezzlement from happening again.
The grand jury is aware that the Richgrove board is trying now, but should have done it years ago. But Mr. Macareno, if you want more on the “Chaos in Richgrove,” just call the grand jury office for facts.
March 27, 2015
Visalia Times-Delta
Letter to the Editor
Chuck White, Foreman, Tulare County Grand Jury

ACLU seeks court order for San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Taser records

Blog note: This article cites a county grand jury report.
SAN BERNARDINO >> The ACLU sued the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Thursday, seeking a judge’s order to produce records on its Taser gun policies and practices, in light of controversy over how deputies are using the devices.
In the 21-page lawsuit filed Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court, attorneys sought records from the Sheriff’s Department through a California Public Records Act request, and they cited a 2012 San Bernardino County Grand Jury probe that culminated with recommendations on the Sheriff’s Department improving its training on Taser gun use.
That use, they said, came in the wake of the deaths of several men in recent years after being stunned repeatedly with Tasers.
The Sheriff’s Department has refused to disclose the records, arguing that the requested information included in department use-of-force reports, detailing the number of Taser deployments by deputies and the duration of Taser exposures on individuals, is protected under the attorney-client privilege, according to court documents, filed Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
“The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department has refused to publicly disclose records related to the policies and practices surrounding its officers’ use of Tasers,” ACLU executive director Hector Villagra said. “That’s unacceptable given the troubling number of deaths involving individuals who were Tasered multiple times.”
The information about Taser use that the Sheriff’s Department withheld is contained in disclosable records other than use-of-force reports, but the Sheriff’s Department failed to identify and produce those records, according to the ACLU court filing.
Sheriff John McMahon said his office has released everything he could to the ACLU.
“We responded to their requests and delivered over 700 pages of documents,” McMahon said. “Everything that’s not confidential (personnel or active litigation documents) that they requested in their discovery was given to them.”
ACLU lawyer Adrienna Wong said the reason they are seeking the documents is to be sure the Sheriff’s Department made the changes recommended by the Grand Jury.
“We need to see if the sheriff made those changes as promised,” Wong said in a phone interview. “And if not, the sheriff’s department needs to be held accountable.”
In its annual report released on July 1, 2013, the San Bernardino County grand jury recommended, in response to newspaper articles that year regarding the Taser-related deaths of three men at the hands of sheriff’s deputies, that the Sheriff’s Department enhance deputy training on Taser use. In its response, the Sheriff’s Department agreed with the grand jury’s recommendation to amend its Taser training manual to include the requirement of greater communication among on-scene officers regarding the number of Taser discharges deployed on a person to avoid multiple, continuous exposures. It also agreed to stress the importance of alternative methods of subduing individuals at future training sessions.
The ACLU also cited in its writ the Aug. 12, 2014 death of Victorville resident Dante Parker, who died following a physical confrontation with a female sheriff’s deputy in which he was stunned 12 times with a Taser gun and subsequently died at the hospital. Parker, according to San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, was under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, but it didn’t stop Parker’s family from filing a lawsuit in January alleging civil rights violations, and the NAACP demanding a federal investigation.
In addition to the grand jury’s findings and Taser-related deaths in San Bernardino County over the last few years, the ACLU also noted in its court filing numerous allegations of Taser gun torture against inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga as part of a longstanding hazing ritual, which to date has spurred five federal lawsuits and a federal grand jury hearing last month.
According to court documents, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies use Tasers, with and without Drive-stun mode, in the field and in county jails. Drive-stun mode is considered to be a pain-compliance technique that is a lesser quantum of force than when used after deploying the barbed probes into a person.
But in the final report the Grand Jury said “Taser related deaths are not uncommon in San Bernardino County.”
Another case the ACLU cited in the writ was that of a Lake Arrowhead man who died after three deputies shot him with tasers 16 times.
“News accounts of the incident made clear the man was unarmed, and had been stopped by deputies for allegedly running a stop sign,” the writ says.
“Everything balances in the direction of what’s in the documents we are seeking,” Wong said. “We won’t know which direction we are going until the Sheriff’s Department and the county release all the public information we’ve asked for.”
March 26, 2015
San Bernardino County Sun
By Doug Saunders and Joe Nelson

[Kern County] Grand Jury report says the rose industry is wilting, companies say it's simply changing

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A Grand Jury report released Tuesday said the Rose Industry in Wasco is declining.
Two companies, Jackson and Perkins and their sister company Park Seed, went bankrupt in 2010. Now the Jackson and Perkins property looks like a ghost town, with a peeling and sun-bleached sign and several buildings with no one inside.
Efren Prado worked caring for roses on that property for 20 years. He said he loved that work and was sad when the Gardner Family bought the land for almond farming.
The report by the Grand Jury said the decline was partially due to big box stores and the housing collapse.
Director of Field Operations with Weeks Roses, Juan Contreras, says his company has weathered the economic storm. Contreras said roses grown in Wasco are shipped to nurseries all over the country. He said the industry is important for the area as it provides work for agricultural employees from November to January, which is when other crops are dormant.
When you go into town, people, like Jason Mateo who was surveying Wasco streets, say they miss seeing the roses, and that they've disappeared from the side of the road.
Roses were a top twenty commodity for Kern County, but started declining in 2006 and slipped off the list by 2010. Contreras said the remaining companies worked to get the rose industry back on the list, in 2013 it was valued at more than $45 million, but compared to a decade ago, they are still far behind.
Contreras hopes his business can continue growing and will not let the rose industry die in Wasco.
March 25, 2015
KERO Bakersfield, Channel 23
By Cassie Carlisle

[Humboldt County] Grand jury calls for jail transport; sheriff says policy on the way

Eureka >> A report by the 2014-2015 Humboldt County Grand Jury released on Thursday, March 19 is recommending the sheriff’s office inform qualified detainees in the county jail of their legal right to be transported back to the place of their arrest in order to adhere to state law.
“Our own findings would conclude that the sheriff’s policies and the Humboldt County correctional officers actions are evading their responsibilities to the qualified inmates and that it might not technically be considered ‘breaking the law,’ but that a ‘normal person’ would conclude that the sheriff was not acting in good faith by evading the issue and not informing those who qualify of their legal rights,” the Grand Jury report states.
The document states that Sheriff Mike Downey told them that correctional officers “will not inform” those qualified detainees due to “his opinion” being that “correctional officers are not legally mandated to do so.”
Downey said Thursday that he has never said that his office refused to adhere to the state law and plans to have a policy out in 30 days.
“To be clear, we have never refused to comply with (Penal Code) section 686.5,” he said. “What we have been doing is putting together a policy to enforce 686.5.”
The penal code section the sheriff’s office is in question over states that the arresting agency shall return or provide for the return of a qualified detainee to the place of their arrest as long as that location is more than 25 miles from the jail, as the crow flies. In order to qualify for this service, the person must either have been arrested and released without trial, or be arrested, tried, and acquitted, or be “indigent.”
Downey said he has been working with the County Counsel’s Office since last year to draft a policy in order to adhere to the provisions of the law.
“It is something that has been on our radar and something we have finally finalized and will be putting into effect here shortly,” he said. “The reason we had not done this before, to be quite frank, was because we were unaware of Section 686.5 and once we were aware of it, we made the adjustments we needed to make to comply with that.”
Downey said he could not speak more on the policy as he had not yet formally replied to the Grand Jury’s newest report, which he said he had not seen as he was in Shelter Cove on Thursday.
The issue of late night jail release rose to the public forefront after the New Year’s Day 2014 murder of Rev. Eric Freed at the St. Bernard Catholic Church rectory in Eureka — a day after his alleged killer Gary Lee Bullock was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication in the Garberville area and released in Eureka at 1 a.m. on Jan 1.
Another incident was the September 2013 fatal stabbing of 33-year-old Joshua Lloyd Burrell, who was killed in the Royal Inn parking lot in Eureka shortly after he was released from jail after midnight.
The Grand Jury also brought up the transportation issue in its 2013-2014 annual report and recommended that the sheriff’s office work with the Humboldt Transit Authority on possible options.
“Generally speaking the early morning buses are not crowded and making bus tickets available would be virtually cost free as the buses will run in any case. In some instances the place of arrest is not accessible by public transportation and Humboldt County Correctional Facility must make other arrangements,” the 2013-2014 report states. “... When inmates from eastern, northern and southern parts of the county are released, they are not returned to the place of their arrest, but let out onto the streets of Eureka. In many instances, this policy appears to violate Penal Code Section 686.5.”
The Board of Supervisors expressed support to this suggestion in October, but also expressed concerns over the costs of implementing the program.
In Downey’s written response to the 2013-2014 report and recommendation, he wrote that the option requires further analysis before any implementation. Issues he found with the recommendation were determining the definition of “indigent” and who would qualify under that definition, who would be the agency responsible for transporting a detainee back, and costs of transportation.
A press release issued by the sheriff’s department on Friday said, “As the law states, an indigent person who was released without trail, or acquitted may request to be taken back to the place of arrest. There is no provision within the law that directs the sheriff to inform the arrestee of this service. It is Sheriff Downey’s intent to implement a legally sound policy in order to protect the rights and safety of all citizens in Humboldt County. When the policy is implemented a press release will outline the provisions of the policy. Since January 2015 the Correctional Facility has been given the directive to provide, upon request, public transportation passes to indigent persons who were arrested in Garberville and Willow Creek areas.
“Correctional staff is currently collecting other agencies policies as they relate to 686.5 P.C. in order to prepare policy that will comply with the law at which such policy will be implemented and adhered to by staff,” Downey’s Sept. 12 response states.
The Grand Jury report released Thursday states that it can’t accurately conclude how many people would qualify under the subject state law, citing a number of “factors” for this such as “inconsistent” data from the sheriff’s office in regard to those transported from the Garberville and Willow Creek areas.
“There may be disagreement about the numbers, but the fact that there are people who qualify and that they are not being told that they qualify is not open for disagreement,” the report states.
Downey said that the jail’s newly drafted policy would comply with the state law, and that there is only a “small portion of the population that is affected by this.”
“It’s not going to be that big of a deal now that we have this policy put together to respond,” he said.
The full report can be viewed online at the Humboldt County Grand Jury website at www.humboldtgov.org/510/Grand-Jury.
March 24, 2015
Redwood Times
By Will Houston