Friday, July 15, 2016

EDITORIAL: San Bernardino [County] grand jury issues annual report

The San Bernardino County grand jury issued its annual report on July 1. Consisting of citizen volunteers, the grand jury is tasked with the responsibility to investigate and review issues pertaining to local governments throughout the county.
San Bernardino County’s child welfare system received considerable scrutiny by the grand jury. Recommending over a dozen reforms to the Department of Children and Family Services, the panel found a need for better communication between CFS and law enforcement, as well as a need for more training of social workers.
According to the grand jury, based on interviews with law enforcement officials, CFS social workers “frequently do not return phone calls from law enforcement.” Additionally, the grand jury reported that CFS social workers engage in practices that hinder and delay law enforcement investigations, including contacting persons of interest before law enforcement can do so.
The grand jury report comes just over a week after the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Children’s Justice announced it was investigating San Bernardino County’s “compliance with California laws intended to ensure the safety and well-being of children, including children in the dependency system.”
Less controversially, the grand jury called for a task force to sort out the reasons for the high turnover among county social workers. It’s imperative the county’s child welfare system gets the attention and scrutiny it deserves.
The grand jury also sought to determine whether there was a backlog of rape kits and, if so, how to address it.
Though state law recommends law enforcement agencies submit sexual assault forensic evidence to crime labs within 20 days, the county hasn’t followed these guidelines. The grand jury suggests the county do so and contract out testing services at public and private labs in the county. This is responsible.
Another issue addressed by the grand jury is the treatment of transgender students in local schools. It found that local school districts haven’t had many problems with acceptance, or at least tolerance of, such students. And it called for task forces to protect the students and convert as many bathrooms to unisex bathrooms “as possible.” The latter suggestion warrants careful deliberation by local districts, given the likely costs of doing so, without any clear evidence such a mass conversion is needed.
July 7, 2016
The Press-Enterprise
By Russell Boniface

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