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New report recommends changes for Sheriff's Court and Jail Division

Sheriff_Jim_Neil.jpg
Hamilton County Sheriff's Department
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UPDATE 5/15/14 : Greenwood & Streicher are expected to release one or two more reports says Michael Robison, Director of Media and Public Relations with the Sheriff's Office. The consulting group is also analyzing the department's Enforcement and Support Services divisions. Robison says it is uncertain when that/those reports will be ready.

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Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says training, staffing and information technology remain key areas of concern for his department.

Neil makes the comments in a letter delivered Wednesday to Hamilton County Commissioners. In the letter he cites a new report by Greenwood & Streicher, LLC evaluating the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office's Court and Jail Services Division.

The report is a follow up to the comprehensive audit Neil ordered when he took office in January 2013. As in that first report, the new report finds staff are highly disciplined but also resistant to change. It also suggests, as stated above,there are three "mission-critical functions... requiring urgent attention -
staffing, technology, and training."

The report takes a critical stance toward the way previous Sheriff Simon Leis ran the jail, concluding deputies "often referred to themselves as being considered 'second class officers' within the HCSO because 'patrol division is more important than everyone else in this department.'" Greenwood & Streicher say the climate has improved under the new administration.

Training

The report makes three recommendations when it comes to training. They include:

RECOMMENDATION: The agency should develop its own recruit training and conduct such training so as to afford employees an adequate orientation unto the culture and expectations of the HCSO. RECOMMENDATION: The HCSO should immediately establish a mandatory training program, including assignment with a field training officer that must be satisfactorily completed before deputies are permitted to work secondary employment as a member of the HCSO. Routine training in all other areas, including use of force, must resume. RECOMMENDATION: There are no excuses for failure to train in a modern law enforcement and corrections agency. HCSO, the elected officeholders, and County have an absolute mandate to train to the constitutional standards required. Failure to train has led to decreased expectations, diminished performance, and creates dangers at all levels due to ineffective and constitutionally deficient practices. Failure to reinstate all necessary training to constitutionally required levels equates to ineffective supervision, civil rights violations, unconstitutional practices, and unnecessary legal exposure. Failure of the HCSO, elected officeholders, and County administration to remedy these defects will demonstrate the need for external intervention and oversight in the form of a consent decree, judgment, or pattern or practice investigation under 42 U.S.C. § 14141, at unknown but enormous cost.

Technology Recommendations

RECOMMENDATION: The HCSO should greatly expand its use of technology to create a viable, usable records management system, as well as an inmate assessment and intake system. These investments will deliver significant return on investment by decreasing spiraling personnel costs to perform these functions manually. The HCSO should greatly expand its EMU program to insure that the HCJC houses only the most necessary detainees, and use it on a regional basis as a force-multiplier in investigating and solving crime.

Staffing Recommendations

RECOMMENDATION: The HCSO should conduct a data-driven staffing assessment that takes into account national, regional, state, and best practices standards to determine optimal levels of staffing, and devote more resources to frontline staffing where security issues are paramount. At minimum, deputies should be equipped with an adequate radio system that provides transmission capability within the HCJC, for their safety, the safety of non-sworn employees, visitors and inmates. RECOMMENDATION: The HCSO must take immediate steps to enhance basic security in the court services division. Felony warrant service staffing should be increased to reduce the backlog, and inmates should be processed in the HCJC and contained properly, rather than handcuffed to furniture in a public area. The armory in the court services division must be either relocated to a secure location or replaced with an armored gun safe. RECOMMENDATION: The HCSO should commit to pursuing accreditation through the American Corrections Association. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, and accreditation will allow HCSO to adopt nationally accepted standards for staffing, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and operational guidance. HCSO should also partner with the University of Cincinnati’s world renowned Corrections Institute. This is in the beginning stages of implementation since the transition. Such a partnership will open the agency to professional scrutiny with the aim of enhancing effectiveness and performance by utilizing the inspection, audit, and review processes, comparison to current best practice, data analysis, evidence-based decision making and intelligence-led operations. Doing so can transition the HCSO’s Corrections Division from simply a jail to a “different kind of jail” — a jail for the 21st century.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.