Monday, June 30, 2008

Ain't it Grand part 2 (police, jails and Martin)

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 9:28 PM

Some law enforcement factoids courtesy of the 2007-'08 Grand Jury Report:

The Fortuna Police Dept. is housed in a "well maintained" city building. "It has a well-stocked first aid kit," and "three fire exits are clearly marked and accessible."

The Hoopa Station "does not have adequate janitorial services," and their garage is a mess.

The Trinidad Police Dept. is housed in a remodeled home, which is "spacious and suitable for police operations," but they have no holding cells, so perps are locked in police cars until taken to jail.

The building housing the Eureka Police Dept. is showing its age and needs to expand.

Inmates housed in the Eel River #31 and High Rock #32 Conservation Camps earn $1.45 a day until they are "skilled," and potentially get a raise to $3.90 a day. When they risk their lives fighting fires that get $1 an hour. Half of that money is earmarked for "any required restitution."
It costs $14,000-$16,000 a year to keep an inmate at a camp, as opposed to around $45,000 a year for prison.
The inmates provide around $500,000 a year in community service. Public agencies including schools, citys, the county and the state can hire crews for $160-$200 bucks a day, but sometimes they work for nothing.

Major findings re: the County Jail: "Video images of sobering cells may not always be clear." Camera housings should be cleaned more often. Also: "There is no procedure to routinely monitor computer use of on-duty correctional officers." Periodic and random monitoring is recommended.

The 18 kids in the well run juvenile hall ( aged 12 to 18 ) get points for "positive behavior," and can earn "extra privileges." "The staff expressed that the point system is very effective in behavior modification." (I wonder if they ring a bell at mealitime.)

Would you be surprised to hear that citizen complaints at the Blue Lake Police Dept. weren't handled all that well? Probably not since it's been disbanded and the former chief is in the slammer, so that's not exactly a revelation. The GJ notes that, "The city manager apparently has not fulfilled his responsibilities concerning the police," particularly in supervising the chief.  Hmm, maybe he should be dismissed. Oh, he was? The chief too? Well, nevermind.

OK. let's get serious for a minute. The Grand Jury looked into the death of Martin Frederick Cotton II, who died while in police custody, and, according to a tox screen, under the influence of LSD.

While they could not say for sure how he died, their investigation "uncovered possible police procedural violations," specifically witnesses reported that police punched Cotton in the head and kicked him in the lower back and/or kidney area.

Cotton later reportedly banged his head against the wall in his cell. Police were cleared in a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) investigation and the D.A. did not file charges.

The GJ findings/recommendations:

No. 1: Two out of three agencies in the CIRT were involved in the Cotton incident and had conflicts of interest. Someone else should have handled the investigation, the FBI for example.

No. 2: The mentally ill population of the county often has contact with local law enforcement. "Law enforcement should make an effort to maximize their effectiveness in dealing with the mentally ill."

No. 3: The videotape system in the sobering cell where Cotton was housed did not produce a clear image. (See above.)

No. 4: The holding cell should be properly padded.

No. 5: HumCo Sheriff's Dept. policy and procedures, while "well-written,"  "may not have been followed" re: what they call chillingly, "Cotton's last incarceration."

No. 6: Same with EPD policy and procedures.

Regarding Nos. 5 & 6, the report recommends better training for staff when it comes to "subjects exhibiting bizarre behavior and/or a potential threat to self and/or others." That's it?

For more on "Cotton's last incarceration" check these Journal stories by Japhet Weeks:

A Broken Vessel

Who Killed Martin Cotton?

and this Open Letter to county counsel from our Town Dandy Hank Sims

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Ain't it Grand?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 9:12 PM

It's here! Yes, the 2007-2008 Final Report from the Humboldt County Grand Jury is out. Not that you'll find it on their website. And no, you can't ask them for one until tomorrow morning when they present the 44 page document to the Supes. However, since it's on the Board agenda, the county posted it on their website .
What is it? Well, kind of like a report card for various county agencies, and about as exciting. Sorry, but we're mostly underwhelmed.

Highlights? Well, it starts with something tantalizing: "Board of Supervisors Settlement with Tamara Falor," and you're thinking, wow, that mystery is finally solved, but guess what, the Supes were as tight-lipped about the terms with the Grand Jury as they have been with everyone else, once again citing the old personnel issue dodge, so we learn zip from them. The grand conclusion? The Supes "may have settled with Falor to avoid more costly and time consuming litigation," um, then again maybe it was something else. With that they throw up their hands.

Next they tackle the pressing issue of County Dept. head evaluations. Turns out they're pretty much non-existent. Improvement needed.

Sewers are examined (who volunteered for that committee?) and it was found that shit happens, and escapes various systems. Again, improvement needed.

It's too bad Hank isn't around to read the scintillating GJ report on his beloved North Coast Railroad Authority. The grand conclusion: "The principal objection to the restoration of the rail line is the enormous cost likely to be incurred. Any benefits from such a project would be other than monetary and limited in scope in the foreseeable future." (Have they perhaps been following our Town Dandy?)

They took some time investigating a citizen complaint of wrongdoing by Big Lagoon School District regarding the Big Lagoon Charter School, but found no substantiation. Hmmm.

The GJ also looked into fencing at Murray Field Airport, which apparently is needed to keep out deer who get in the way of emergency medical flights. Pending environmental review, a $600,000 fence should be built in spring/summer of next year

The G. Jury looked at Public Transit and the Humboldt Transit Authority and offered a fairly detailed explanation of transit financing that we will not go into at this time. Overall the GJ commends the HTA and associated agencies for doing what they can, but with some provisos regarding a couple of points that turned up:
One is that a fair amount to the Transportation Development Act (TDA) funding we receive is not used for public transit at all -- in Rio Dell and Fortuna the money goes toward road maintenance.
The report noted something that might seem obvious: "Ridership is higher in the main transportation corridors and reduced on the periphery," especially those areas (Garberville for example) that no longer have bus service.
The county figures that 32 percent of those in incorporated areas live outside the reach of public transit and/or have no access to specialized services like Dial-a-Ride.
And, to sum up a bunch of findings, considering gas prices, insurance, and emissions standards, it's going to be increasingly expensive to move people around.
The GJ "encourages" improvement in meeting unmet needs and suggests using more TDA funds for public transit. However, no response is required.

The report includes a frequency chart showing how often the GJ investigates various subjects. Since the turn of the century (and perhaps earlier) they've looked at our jails and juvie every year. They did so again this time around. And they checked in on the police. We'll address those in Part 2.

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