November 20, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1998 Final Report: East Palo Alto Police Department
Background | Findings | Recommendations
Background:

The East Palo Alto Police Department (EPAPD) has been in existence for 15 years. During that time, the City of East Palo Alto has been unable to provide the financial resources required to provide a full service police department for its citizens. The EPAPD is highly dependent on Federal and State grant funds and assistance from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office (SMCSO). Prior to incorporation as a city within San Mateo County, the City of East Palo Alto obtained police protection primarily from the SMCSO and, to a smaller degree, from the California Highway Patrol. For most of its history, EPAPD has received aid from the SMCSO. During a period of peak homicide, aid was also brought in from Santa Clara County as well as State and Federal police agencies. Previous San Mateo County Grand Juries have concluded that without further funding and other improvements, the City of East Palo Alto would be better served by contracting with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury reviewed the previous grand jury reports, and interviewed officials from EPAPD and other agencies. Visits to the City of East Palo Alto were made and department records reviewed. A special Management Study/Assessment of the EPAPD, commissioned by the City of East Palo Alto in early 1998, was also reviewed, including interviews with individuals responsible for the report, and the EPAPD response to the report.

Findings:

During the past year, the EPAPD has been able to hire 13 officers to bring their complement of officers assigned to basic patrol duties up to strength. There are four vacancies in the rank of Sergeant, and the EPAPD relies on acting Sergeants or senior officers to fill first line supervision posts. As of September 1998, only one vacancy had been filled on an acting basis.

Both the San Mateo County Sheriff, who provides contract services for investigation of serious crimes as well as patrol augmentation, and the EPAPD Chief agree that communications between the organizations have improved. There has been a decrease in crimes of violence and random gunfire. Unfortunately, due to a change in patrol deployment, the EPAPD is no longer able to compare these crime statistics by local geographical area.

The EPAPD now contracts with an outside firm to provide pre-employment background investigations on all sworn employees, and is meeting the standards set by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) in this area. Recommended post-hiring training plans and procedures have yet to be fully implemented.

The police department is located in the City of East Palo Alto’s Administration Building. These quarters are substandard. They lack the space and privacy necessary to conduct interviews with crime victims and perform other policing functions efficiently. The facility contributes to the internal communications problems found to be present in the organization. Plans to remodel the facility have been placed on hold because of lack of funds.

Employees of the EPAPD receive the lowest pay and benefits of any police department in the Bay Area. This makes recruitment and retention of qualified officers difficult. Employee turn-over has been high and, as a result, about 50% of the officers assigned to patrol operations have less than two years experience with the City of East Palo.

Senior staff has been accused of being unresponsive, uncaring, and lacking in up-to-date training.

Community Policing Programs have been espoused by the department in various grant applications and officers have been hired to implement various programs within the community. However, there is little to indicate that true community policing activities are being carried out.

The City of East Palo Alto has chosen to operate a police department. In past years the EPAPD has been operating in a survival mode which has not served the best interests of the EPAPD or the citizens of the City.

Recommendations:
Recommendation 40: The East Palo Alto City Council should ensure, no later than the start of fiscal year 1999-2000, that a substantial percentage of increased tax revenue from new projects be devoted to increasing police officers’ salary and benefits and improving the physical plant of the police department.
Recommendation 41: The East Palo Alto City Council should review, approve, and monitor, no later than the start of fiscal year 1999-2000, the East Palo Alto Police Department’s plans and objectives to ensure they meet the needs of the community.
Recommendation 42: The East Palo Alto City Council should support the Chief of Police of East Palo Alto and his department managers in establishing mandatory leadership training and improved communications.
Recommendation 43: The East Palo Alto City Council should require the East Palo Alto Police Department remain in close contact with all segments of the community by regularly scheduled town meetings.
Recommendation 44: The East Palo Alto City Council should direct the East Palo Alto Police Chief to retrain his personnel in East Palo Alto Community Policing plans and concepts and to implement the programs on which the grant requests were originally based.
Recommendation 45: The East Palo Alto City Council should direct the East Palo Alto Chief of Police to review the beat number method of recording crime and incident information to determine if this is adequate to give his department an adequate database for crime analysis and comparison with previous years’ data.
Recommendation 46: The East Palo Alto City Council should direct the East Palo Alto Chief of Police, by the start of fiscal year 1999-2000, to require that all patrol officers keep a daily shift log to assure that the immediate next shift personnel, or personnel arriving after an absence, are up-to-date on critical details of what has happened in the City of East Palo Alto.
Recommendation 47: The East Palo Alto City Council should monitor the progress the East Palo Alto Police Department makes in following the guidelines and recommendations made in the management study they commissioned this year and in accomplishing the recommendations of the San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury.

 

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