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• Grand jury says Sheriff's station in state of disrepair

Posted: June 26, 2008 1:18 a.m.
Updated: August 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Despite a "well run" courthouse, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station ranks "unsatisfactory," according to a 350-page report released this week which found the 1970s-era building dirty and in disrepair.

"It is a 36-year-old facility," sheriff's Capt. Anthony La Berge said Wednesday in response to the grand jury report. "They say it's in general disrepair and dirty, but since the time they visited us, we've done a lot to the building."

In an inspection of county and municipal police department jails and lockups, court holding cells, juvenile camps, juvenile detention centers and other penal institutions, a county-mandated civil grand jury released its findings of several county and city buildings on Monday.

All facilities reviewed by the grand jury received either a "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" rating, along with a one-line comment about the state of the building.

Among 19 sheriff's stations that were analyzed by the grand jury, the SCV Sheriff's Station was one of three "Adult Detention Facilities" to receive an "unsatisfactory" rating by the grand jury.

The other stations that received an unsatisfactory rating were in Crescenta Valley and Lakewood.

At least two committee members visited each location unannounced during their one-year term, and performed inspections based upon a pre-determined set of criteria. Comments were made based upon "reasonable expectations on appearance, health and safety elements," according to the report.

Since the jury's visit, La Berge pointed out that new carpeting was installed in various portions of the station, a new roof was installed and the parking lot was repaved earlier this month.

"In the meantime, this is all temporary stuff," La Berge said. He pointed out that the Sheriff's Department is looking ahead 20 years into the future. In addition to planned expansion, La Berge said there are plans for multiple stations throughout the valley.

"This station was built for 70 to 90 personnel, but now we have about 200," he said, adding that there are definite plans to refurbish the current station and expand in the near future to keep up with the valley's growth. "We're definitely working hard."

He added that the county Board of Supervisors did its part in helping the station expand. At Tuesday's board meeting, the supervisors adopted the Law Enforcement Facilities Mitigation Fee, which is a north county developer's fee that would help fund future stations in the SCV.

The jury report analyzed a variety of topics, ranging from countywide vehicle use to jails, in-home supportive services fraud to emergency preparedness, probation and foster care to county rehabilitation centers. In the final report are investigative reports and recommendations on the issues that the grand jury decided to focus on during their one-year tenure, which started July 1, 2007 for this year's report.

"The major goal this or any civil grand jury struggles to accomplish is implicit in its role of deciding on appropriate subject matter for investigation," Marcia L. Goodman, the grand jury's foreperson, said in the report. "Considering the size and complexity of Los Angeles County, this is a daunting task."

The Final Report was comprised of investigative and standing committee reports, submitted to supervising Judge Steven R. Van Sicklen of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.

The Jails/Detention Facilities Committee submitted a standing committee report about the status of sheriff's stations and its housing and detention quarters.

The Antelope Valley Sheriff's Station was given a "satisfactory" rating by the grand jury, with the committee members observing that the sobering cell lacked padding. The Palmdale Sheriff's Station received a "satisfactory" rating and was listed in the report as "very clean and well run."

Among the most notable of the "unsatisfactory" ratings was the central office of the Los Angeles Police Department. According to the Final Report, the LAPD central building was Staph-infected, and the personnel was not properly informed of administrative procedures.

Several other stations and detention centers earned "clean" and "well run" comments.

Based upon their findings, the Jail/Detention Facility committee made nine recommendations, including increased use non-sworn personnel to perform clerical and routine duties, ensuring that detention centers are well lit, bringing a few stations up to safety code and making sure policy and procedure manuals are kept in central locations, reviewed regularly by personnel and updated on demand.

In its investigations, the jails committee examined housing conditions, the availability of telephones, medical needs, food service, number of staff, training background, policy and procedure manuals, local fire inspection reports, use of safety and sobering cells, availability of rules and disciplinary manuals, availability of personal care items and conditions of restrooms and showers.

The committee's report made 14 findings about the county's jails and detention facilities. Among its findings, the committee stated that the most dangerous situations "exists at certain facilities where holding areas are not provided for the transfer of inmates." Other deficiencies including poor lighting, "contributed to a very depressing atmosphere," food stored beyond its expiration date, insufficient sworn and non-sworn personnel and poorly-protected medical supply rooms. There was also a need for graffiti removal and earthquake retrofitting.

A committee that inspected county rehabilitation centers recommended that personnel Castaic's Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center and the Acton Rehabilitation Center were not properly instructed on procedures in the event a resident became ill or injured. Residents at both centers were also not given a medical evaluation before they were released, according to the report.

The grand jury report recommended that written procedures be established at both centers and residents should receive medical evaluations prior to their release.

"Although the civil grand jury has no power of indictment," Goodman said, "it does have the power of publicity to use as a tool for positive change."


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