December 20, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1999 Final Report: Courthouse Security
Background | Findings | Recommendations
Background:

Two previous San Mateo County Grand Juries recommended that succeeding San Mateo County Grand Juries monitor the security measures taken at the Hall of Justice. The Hall of Justice system, which is similar to security checkpoints at most major airports and many courthouses, became operational on July 27, 1998. It was recommended that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors have security systems similar to that at the Hall of Justice installed in all San Mateo County courthouses.

Preliminary plans for the installation of security check points at the Northern Court Branch, Central Court Branch and the Juvenile Court were prepared in May and June 1998. Because the Northern Court Branch deals with a high volume of domestic and gang violence, formal planning for the installation of a security check point at that branch started in January 1999, with completion expected no later than December 1999. As of October 1999, $856,000 had been approved, but not funded, for the Northern Branch Court security system.

The objective of the Building Security Work Plan for the Northern Court Branch is to design, install and ultimately implement the security systems in a timely and cost effective manner. The three phases to this plan are Phase I a traffic flow study, Phase II design and equipment and Phase III installation and implementation. The facilities walk-through to prepare for the traffic flow study was conducted October 28, 1999, and the traffic study is scheduled for January 2000.

A separate two story building holds Courtroom O, family court, small claims and unlawful detainer cases on the first floor. On the second floor are drug court, drug testing, Own Recognizance Program and the Bridges program.

Findings:

The Building Security Committee stated that in order to fully implement a security system similar to the one in the Hall of Justice, all Northern Court Branch courtrooms need to be in one building. The 1999 Grand Jury attended meetings where the Building Security Committee proposed that the space in the main court building now occupied by the lunch room/snack bar is the most viable location to relocate all courts and programs now located in the building housing Courtroom O. The cost of conversion is approximately $160,000. As an interim solution to high risk situations, a $3,000 portable magnetometer could be purchased to use in any courtroom as needed.

The signage in the Northern Court Branch, exterior lighting in the parking lots and lighting for transporting prisoners were found to be inadequate. The ramps in the main complex and to Courtroom O do not conform to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A State Task Force on Court Facilities found the secure movement of prisoners within the Northern Court Branch to be deficient.

Members of the San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury monitored the security systems at the Hall of Justice and concluded that one additional Sheriff's Deputy is needed for complete coverage at the public entrance. As buildings are being constructed or remodeled, wiring for security is not always included in the plans.

Recommendations:


Recommendation 43

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors give high priority to court security to ensure that the security checkpoints and other measures undertaken provide a secure and safe environment for all persons using the courts.


Recommendation 44

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the San Mateo County Sheriff take all necessary steps to install similar systems in all San Mateo County Courthouses and as part of the remodeling of the Juvenile Facility at Hillcrest.


Recommendation 45

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors provide the funds and direct the County Manager to implement the changes proposed by the Building Security Committee for the Northern Court Branch.


Recommendation 46

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors direct Public Works to plan for wiring of security checkpoints in all future construction projects.


Recommendation 47

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County Sheriff assign an additional deputy to the Hall of Justice public entrance.


Recommendation 48

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County 2000 Grand Jury continue to monitor the installation of security systems in all courthouses in San Mateo County.

© 2014 Superior Court of San Mateo County