SLO County grand jury releases annual report, asks for applications

The San Luis Obispo Courthouse Annex.
The San Luis Obispo Courthouse Annex. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

County law enforcement agencies said a series of San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury recommendations related to requesting bail increases were either unnecessary or inappropriate, according the grand jury’s 2016-17 continuity report released Thursday.

The grand jury is composed of 19 civilian volunteers who typically serve a one-year term and whose role is to provide citizen oversight of local governmental agencies. Under California law, local agencies must issue a response to the grand jury’s recommendations regardless of whether those recommendations will be used.

The grand jury’s most recent annual report addressed just two issues: the question of whether scheduled bail was too low and an inquiry into the process of issuing a minor use permit.

Under the first category, the grand jury report “was conducted to determine if local law enforcement agencies are utilizing their option to request enhanced bail for arrestees when indicated to preserve public safety and increase the chances that the offender will appear in court.”

The grand jury report made four recommendations to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and all seven county police departments:

▪  The District Attorney’s Office should coordinate the development of a uniform written policy for local law enforcement agencies to request an increase in a suspect’s scheduled bail.

Both the DA’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office said such policy already is in place, as did most of the county’s police departments.

▪  The DA’s Office should coordinate a formal training program to assist local law enforcement agencies in seeking higher bail amounts.

On this the DA and sheriff disagreed, “both stating that the training of law enforcement professionals remains the responsibility of the local law enforcement agency,” according to the grand jury report.

Most of the police departments said this policy already is in place, while the Paso Robles Police Department said it is unnecessary.

▪  Local law enforcement agencies should work with the DA’s Office to develop department-specific programs related to higher bail requests.

Again, most county law enforcement agencies said this policy already is in place. The DA’s Office and Paso Robles Police Department disagreed with the recommendation.

▪  Local law enforcement agencies “should rely only on California state law when considering whether a bail increase is appropriate.”

Agencies responded by saying they already abide by this recommendation.

The second report, titled, “Minor Use Permits: An Oxymoron?” was based on a citizen complaint regarding the notification process used when the county issues a minor use permit. As with the first report, the grand jury issued several recommendations to the county Planning and Building Department, County Administrative Officer and the Board of Supervisors.

The Planning and Building Department responded to the five recommendations, and that response was shared by the other agencies.

The department’s response was that most of the recommendations were “not warranted and not reasonable,” with the exception of recommendations that already are in place.

The Thursday release of the annual report coincided with a call for applications for the next one-year grand jury term, which begins July 1.

Jury foreman pro tem Dennis Frahmann said applicants are reviewed by a committee as well as by the county presiding judge, and the names that pass that process are then placed into a drawing.

“Typically, the pool (of applicants) is much larger than the number of positions,” Frahmann said.

Grand jury applications can be found at www.slocourts.net/grand_jury/application_forms.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler