August 1, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2002 Report:

San Francisco Jails in San Mateo County

Summary | Background | Findings | Conclusions | Recommendations| Responses

Summary:

The Grand Jury has concluded that the presence of San Francisco County criminal detention facilities within San Mateo County's boundaries creates an ongoing exposure to safety risks for the residents of adjacent neighborhoods. San Francisco County is currently expanding the facilities in San Bruno to accommodate an even larger inmate population.

San Mateo County law enforcement agencies have established satisfactory protocols designed to protect the community in the event of riots or escapes from the jails in San Bruno. However, there is no written agreement between the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo that documents roles, responsibilities, and cost accountability for the assistance San Mateo County must provide to San Francisco County Sheriff's Office in the event of breaches of security (riots, escapes, manhunts, etc.) at the San Francisco County jail facilities in San Bruno.

Issue: Are San Mateo County citizens provided adequate security when an escape or riot occurs at San Francisco County penal facilities located in San Bruno?

Further, are there agreements between the counties delineating each agency's security response plan and responsibilities for costs when such occurrences take place?

Background:

San Francisco County Jails #3 and #7 are located on property owned by San Francisco within San Bruno city limits in San Mateo County. These jails house in excess of 800 inmates, including prisoners awaiting outcome of trials for murder and other serious felonies, as well as those sentenced to a year or less. More serious criminals could be incarcerated there for four years or more depending on the length and complication of the trial process. According to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, it is the pre-trial felons, rather than those already sentenced, who are the most dangerous and pose the greatest risk of escape.

San Mateo County law enforcement agencies have no input to the security management for these facilities. The San Francisco County Sheriff, however, calls upon the San Mateo County Sheriff and local police departments to assist in the event of a riot or escape.

San Francisco County has begun an expansion program at these facilities in order to house more inmates. San Francisco did not consult with the San Bruno Police Department or the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office regarding their expansion plans. While the new expanded facility is considered state-of-the-art and highly secure, it will be located even closer to the residential area of San Bruno. San Bruno residents have expressed concerns in local City Council meetings regarding the expansion.

The Grand Jury interviewed key members of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and the San Bruno Police Department. The status of security at the San Francisco County jails in San Bruno was discussed in depth, along with the statewide mutual aid plan. Both the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and the San Bruno Police Department described their roles and responsibilities along with other county law enforcement agencies in responding to calls for assistance at those facilities. Each agency provided their own procedures and protocol for responding to an escape or riot occurrence at the San Francisco County jail facilities in San Bruno. All of these procedures and protocols were reviewed by the Grand Jury.

Discussions were also held with representatives from the offices of the San Mateo County Manager and the County Counsel to determine if there are any existing written agreements that cover responsibilities and costs that should be shared between the counties. The Grand Jury reviewed an agreement between the City of San Bruno, the City and County of San Francisco, and the San Francisco County Sheriff's Department that provides for the payment of costs at a fixed annual rate to the City of San Bruno for emergency medical, rescue, and fire protection at the jails. There is no agreement that addresses costs incurred by San Mateo County in response to a riot or escape at these San Francisco County jails.

Findings:

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and the San Bruno Police Department are among the first respondents to the San Francisco County jails in San Bruno in the event of a call for assistance. Pacifica, Daly City, Millbrae, and South San Francisco Police Departments may also be called to assist if circumstances require additional assistance. The San Bruno Police Department assists initially by sending all available officers to patrol the perimeter of the grounds along Sneath Lane. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office might also assist in securing the perimeter and initiating the watch until officers from San Francisco's Sheriff's Department can relieve them or they are asked to broaden the search for the escapee(s). In such an event, the San Mateo County Sheriff sets up a command post with approximately 12 officers, they broadcast the photo of the escapee(s) and begin the search. The San Mateo County Sheriff considers it highly dangerous to have an inmate escape due to the proximity of the neighboring residential area. The people living in the neighborhood and surrounding communities are put at risk for hostage situations with the potential for physical harm and property damage.

The San Francisco County jails in San Bruno are over 60 years old. Based on interviews with law enforcement agencies, the current security is adequate at best. It will soon be greatly improved with new security features that will be added as part of the expansion of these facilities. Review of the documented San Mateo County response protocols and procedures show that these agencies have an adequate response plan to deal with such emergencies. A community alert system is provided by the San Francisco Sheriff to alert schools and residents in the area of the jail of any escape or emergency at these facilities.

Costs

There is no agreement with San Francisco to share the costs involved with apprehending escapees. These incidents have been limited to one or two calls for assistance to the facilities per year, and a few escapes in the last four years.

The Grand Jury sought information from the involved law enforcement agencies as to the costs associated with a large scale and lengthy response to an outbreak, but no definitive data was provided in writing. Interviews pointed out that costs are incurred in the form of manpower, overtime, and vehicles and equipment necessary to respond to an incident. There is a written agreement between the City and County of San Francisco and the City of San Bruno to compensate San Bruno for emergency medical, rescue, and fire suppression services provided to the jail facilities. There is no similar written agreement covering San Mateo County compensation for law enforcement support to the San Francisco County jails in San Bruno.

Conclusions:

The Grand Jury concludes that the procedures followed by San Mateo County law enforcement agencies for assisting the San Francisco County Sheriff when an escape, riot, or other emergency occurs at the San Francisco County jails in San Bruno are good and provide residents of this county with adequate protection. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and local law enforcement agencies characterize their relationship with the San Francisco County Sheriff's Office as one of mutual respect in response to emergency assistance. However, the Grand Jury notes a lack of cooperation in joint development of written protocols and administrative procedures relative to the San Bruno jails.

The presence of San Francisco criminal detention facilities within San Mateo County's boundaries, over which San Mateo County has no jurisdiction, no authority to assure security, and no involvement in how the facility is run, creates ongoing exposure to safety risks for the neighboring residential area. This extraordinary risk differs from the circumstances under which a call for mutual aid is applied. Protocols for mutual aid provided to the Grand Jury do not address escapes.


Recommendations:

The County Board of Supervisors and San Mateo County Sheriff should negotiate an agreement with the San Francisco County Sheriff and the City and County of San Francisco that delineates a mutual understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of each county in response to emergencies at the San Bruno jail facilities, including the reimbursement of costs incurred by any responding San Mateo County law enforcement agency.
Response
© 2014 Superior Court of San Mateo County