Grand Jury Report: Bad News for Santa Paula, Oxnard and Port Hueneme

By Sheryl Hamlin

On June 1, 2015, the Ventura County Grand Jury issued a required report covering county detention facilities. The report is entitled Detention Facilities and Related Law Enforcement Issues. The impetus for the report is described in the introduction:

Following a mandate of the California State Penal Code, the 2014-2015 Ventura County Grand Jury (Grand Jury) inspected each facility in Ventura County (County) where persons are placed into custody. Although these facilities undergo various required formal inspections by other governmental oversight bodies, the Grand Jury brings a fresh perspective, seeing the facilities from outside the public safety/criminal justice systems.

The report cites Assembly Bill 109 (Realignment) and Proposition 47 which passed in November 2014 as sources of strain on the local public safety systems. The “changes due to Proposition 47 include the reclassification of some property and drug-possession crimes to misdemeanors, which require only the issuance of citations.”

The Grand Jury toured the following facilities: Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Ventura,  East Valley/TO, Main jail, Todd Road, Work Furlough, Juvenile Justice, and Ventura Youth Corrections. They judged each facilities on 38 criteria grading each with a letter grade:  E – Excellent, S – Satisfactory, N – Needs improvement, na – Not Applicable.

The areas receiving the “N” grade were:infractions

 

The Grand Jury made the following recommendations specifically about facilities and/or staffing:

  • The Grand Jury found that the space limitations of the Oxnard police station have affected the Police Department’s ability to efficiently carry out its functions and responsibilities, and that the Santa Paula police department is operating with an inadequate and deteriorating physical facility.
  • The Grand Jury found that the County has made a major effort to cope with the effects of Realignment with measurable success; however, overcrowding at the Main Jail and Todd Road Jail remains a problem
  • The Grand Jury found that Santa Paula and Port Hueneme sworn officer availability is inadequate
  • The Grand Jury recommends that the City Council of Santa Paula make physical facility improvements at its police department.
  • The Grand Jury recommends that the Oxnard City Council obtain additional space for the Oxnard Police Department.
  • The Grand Jury recommends that the Ventura County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff’s Office) be persistent in their efforts to build the mental health facility at the Todd Road Jail.
  • The Grand Jury recommends that the Port Hueneme City Council increase police availability consistent with that city’s needs
  • The Grand Jury recommends that the Santa Paula City Council support an increase in police staffing consistent with that city’s needs.
  • The Grand Jury recommends that the Santa Paula City Council authorize the repair/upgrade of the inadequate and deteriorating facilities of the Santa Paula Police Department.

There was a lengthy discussion about realignment and Proposition 47 and their effects on the county. Overcrowding, inmate on inmate crime, inmate on staff crime, rehabilitation and mental health are a few of the items discussed. To download the entire report, click here.

Santa Paula appears to exhibit the most problematic conditions:

  • FA-33. The Santa Paula police station had an inoperable men’s restroom (red-tagged due to asbestos contamination) and station roof damage due to recent rains.
  • FA-34. The Santa Paula police station has inadequate space for its staff. As a result, detectives are stationed in a trailer adjacent to the police station and use restrooms across an alley in City Hall.
  • FA-35. Santa Paula police officers do not have access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) or Computer Aided Dispatch System (CADS) in patrol cars. The officers must call in to get key information.
  • FA-36. The Santa Paula Police Department has 26 officers, 4 below the current allocation of 30 set by the City Council.

As for financing these expansions, the report is vague. It describes state funding, as follows, but does not indicate how or if this trickles down to the municipalities:

The County received $17 million from the State to support Realignment for Fiscal Year 2014-2015, with some assurances from the State that it will continue to provide funds in the amount derived by the formula set by the Realignment Allocation Committee (RAC). The funding formula for each county is being managed/revised by the RAC, which is composed of the County Executive Officers (CEOs) of nine counties considered a representative cross-section of California’s 58 counties. [Ref-08]

Related Article: Grand Jury recommends major changes in fire department response doctrine 

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Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

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