RESPONSE TO THE WARRANT ENFORCEMENT IN
SAN MATEO COUNTY
GRAND JURY REPORT
July 17, 2003
Hon. Beth Labson Freeman
Judge of the Superior Court
Hall of Justice & Records
400 County Center, 2nd Floor
Redwood City, CA. 94063-1655
RE: Grand Jury Report: Warrant Enforcement in San Mateo County
Dear Judge Freeman:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations in the above referenced report.
The Sheriff's Office estimates that there are about 44,000 outstanding warrants registered in AWS for San Mateo County. Of these, 9,000 were entered by the Sheriff's Office and the balance by city police departments. The nature of the warrant or the bail amount, determine whether a warrant is entered into WPS.
Both the Sheriff's Office and local police departments use three means to enforce
Notice of a warrant may be mailed to the individual.
An officer may be assigned to serve warrants, which is usually a lower priority than “in progress” police work, i.e. necessary responses to ongoing law enforcement demands.
An officer engaged in law enforcement activities, such as a traffic stop, may request outstanding warrant information. If there is an outstanding warrant, an arrest is at the discretion of the officer.
Efforts within the county to expedite the enforcement of warrants include:
An Ad Hoc Task Force that periodically schedules personnel from the United States Marshal’s Office and various County Sheriff’s Offices to serve warrants and pick up felony suspects
A pool of officers from the Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, and city police departments enforce outstanding warrants as part of a coordinated drunk driving enforcement program and joint programs focusing on the apprehension of individuals accused of domestic violence.
Response to Findings
I agree with this finding as to the approximate number of outstanding warrants in the Automated Warrants System (AWS) for San Mateo County and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office in particular, based on documentation presented to my department from Alameda County that administers the AWS system.
I also agree with the Grand Jury’s findings that local police departments and the Sheriff’s Office currently utilize various methods of enforcing warrants. These methods include notice by mail, service by patrol officers when time permits and as a result of traffic or other enforcement encounter with a subject.
I concur. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the United States Marshal’s Service, has taken the lead in participating in county and regional “ad hoc” task forces designed to pool resources and attempt service on felony warrants through out San Mateo County. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and other San Mateo County Police Agencies have joined forces to concentrate on outstanding drunk driving, domestic violence, welfare fraud and child support warrants.
The Sheriff’s Office is also developing a quarterly report of outstanding warrants and warrant activities, by agency, in conjunction with the AWS technical support staff. A quarterly report will soon be provided to all county police chiefs.
The Sheriff’s Office should coordinate with all law enforcement agencies to
use CJIS for entry of all newly issued and outstanding warrants into AWS.
The Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriff’s Office should study the feasibility of creating a centralized county Warrant Detail under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff to serve and enforce warrants for both the county and cities county-wide. Alternately, the Sheriff’s Office and city police departments should develop a standardized policy for the coordinated enforcement of arrest warrants and bench warrants.
Greater use should be made of programs such as the Ad Hoc Task Force to reduce the backlog of outstanding warrants.
Response to Recommendations
I agree with recommendation #1. The Sheriff’s Office has been working with the County’s Information Services Department (ISD), Superior Court and District Attorney’s Office for the past several years to automate the warrant process. Unfortunately, staffing and other priorities within ISD have caused delays in this project from reaching its full potential. The Sheriff’s Office, along with the Superior Court and District Attorney’s Office are committed to working with ISD to assist them in completing this project. The ultimate goal is to allow local law enforcement agencies access to CJIS via the secure network known as LawNet.
I agree in concept with recommendation #2, and understand that several other city police departments in the County are also supportive of this idea. However, to centralize the enforcement of warrants countywide would require additional staffing for the Sheriff’s Office that may not be possible in this current economic period. I would recommend that a feasibility study be conducted by the San Mateo County Police Chiefs and Sheriff Association along with a standardized policy for a coordinated enforcement of arrest and bench warrants in San Mateo County.
I agree with recommendation #3. As previously stated, the Sheriff’s Office has and will continue to participate in “ad hoc” warrant task forces to address the backlog issue. However, with limited funds and resources available to my department, I cannot guarantee that these operations will occur with any regular frequency.
I appreciate the efforts that the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury has undertaken to improve the quality of the criminal justice system in San Mateo County. The effective and efficient service of criminal warrants is critical to the administration of justice and the safety of the people in our communities. I am hopeful that the recommendations of the grand Jury will result in changes that will achieve these goals.
DON HORSLEY, SHERIFF