July 8, 2003
Hon. Beth Labson Freeman
Judge of the Superior Court
Hall of Justice
400 County Center, 2nd Floor
Redwood City, CA 94063
Re: 2002-03 Grand Jury Report on Courthouse Security
Dear Judge Freeman,
Please accept our response to the 2002-03 Grand Jury’s report on Courthouse Security.
We generally agrees with the findings with the exception of two clarifications that need to be made regarding Table 1, as follows:
Badge control access is provided at the Hillcrest Juvenile Courthouse after
The courtroom panic alarms also sound at the South San Francisco Police Department, in addition to County Communications Dispatch (9-1-1).
The Sheriff should within the next six months complete the annual review of the Court Security Plan for all courthouses and present it to the judges for approval and installation.
Response: Concur. Representatives from my office are working with the Court and the Building Security Work Group (BSWG) in finalizing amendments to the Court Security Plan.
The Sheriff should immediately, without further delay or waiting for grants funds, install operational upgraded surveillance cameras and recorders.
Response: Disagree. The cameras currently in place provide a significant deterrent. The BSWG will review the current deployment of cameras to determine if additional cameras should be installed. However, the ability to provide effective and responsive surveillance with the use of cameras is limited by the ability to provide sufficient staffing to monitor the cameras, which is hampered by the budget crisis impacting the County. Furthermore, the completion of the County’s recent Radio Replacement Project, which has upgraded the radio equipment infrastructure for law enforcement and emergency response services, provides a far more effective surveillance tool. With the use of portable radios, Deputies and contract security personnel can immediately summon help from a number of different responders, including the Sheriff’s Office, local police and fire departments, and other emergency services personnel.
Install, upgrade or repair, the existing system so that monitors and camera-recorders can view areas in need of security and ensure that they are constantly monitored.
Response: As noted above, the BSWG will review the current deployment of cameras. The BSWG will also review the working condition of the cameras and the potential for recording devices, as opposed to staff surveillance. However, funding will be a determining factor in the installation of future systems. Our budget has been hard hit in the last round of budget cuts and any funding for systems of this nature would need to be provided through State grants or the Court.
Ensure that security monitors are constantly supervised by trained personnel who can respond as incidents and situations develop.
Response: Concur. Appropriate and selected cameras in use should and will be monitored by trained personnel. However, there are no funds available in the budget to add staff to monitor additional cameras.
The Sheriff should install security systems that control the entrance and egress of the public and that can monitor all courtrooms for safety and security.
Response: Concur. As funds become available we will work with the Court and the BSWG in installing perimeter security systems at the Northern and Central Branch locations. Currently work is underway to install perimeter security at the Northern Courthouse in South San Francisco through a State grant awarded the Court. We expect that system to be fully operational by this Fall. The County is currently designing a new Juvenile Campus at Tower Road that will include new juvenile courtrooms. That design will include perimeter security systems for the courtrooms as well as other facilities located on the campus. Completion of the new campus is slated for 2006. In the interim, Deputies will continue to maintain and operate portable metal detectors at each of the juvenile courtrooms at the current facility. Perimeter security systems will be installed at the Central Courthouse, as funding from the State becomes available.
It is neither efficient nor practical to have perimeter security and an armed Bailiff and/or cameras in every courtroom. As stated in response to Recommendation 5.7 above, portable radios provide Deputies and contract security personnel with an effective tool for summoning emergency responders at the various County and Court facilities. Furthermore, every courtroom has panic alarms at the Judge’s bench and the Bailiff’s station, and an armed Bailiff staffs every courtroom that is in session.
In conclusion, we appreciate the recommendations made by the Grand Jury and will continue our commitment to providing safe and secure facilities for the public and the employees of San Mateo County.
cc: Board of Supervisors