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County Grand Jury Found Staff Shortages Hampered Law Enforcement Review Board

The door of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in Kearny Mesa, Dec. 31...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: The door of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in Kearny Mesa, Dec. 31, 2014.

A San Diego County grand jury report released Thursday found that staffing shortages within a county law enforcement review board led to a history of dismissing cases involving deaths before an investigation could be completed.

The Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board examines complaints of misconduct regarding sheriff's deputies and probation officers, as well as deaths occurring in connection with peace officers.

RELATED: San Diego County Grand Jury Recommends Improvements To Police Review Board

The grand jury began to investigate the board after news outlets reported that the board dismissed 22 death cases in 2017 after only investigating one of them. Some of the cases were pending for longer than six years.

Board staff said the dismissals were required because the cases were more than a year old and the agency's jurisdiction lapsed.

Ultimately, the jury found that staffing shortages within the 11-member board impeded inquiries, as did vacancies in the separate investigative unit, including at the executive officer position. Investigative staff shortages extended back to November 2016, according to the grand jury.

Recent administrative appointments and policy proposals should correct some board issues, according to the grand jury. The board was also recently granted money to hire a third investigator when there has traditionally been two.

RELATED: County Grand Jury: Population At Adult Detention Facilities Exceed Capacity

The grand jury still made several additional recommendations, including to fill open positions more quickly, update training manuals to clarify employee duties; track death-case investigations to ensure they are completed within one year; review the executive officer annually; and relocate the board from the county Public Safety Group, which also oversees that sheriff's and probation departments.

Moving the board to a new city department would ensure greater independence and avoid conflicts of interest, according to the grand jury.

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