TRAFFIC STOP PRACTICES OF THE ISLETON POLICE DEPARTMENT
Subject of Investigation
Traffic stop practices of the Isleton Police Department.
Reason for Investigation
The Grand Jury received a complaint questioning the practices of the Isleton Police Department.
Method of Investigation
Members of the Grand Jury were assigned responsibility for reviewing the materials submitted by the complainant. Members
reviewed the material submitted and requested policies and procedures from the Police Department to review. Two officers and the Chief of the Isleton Police Department were interviewed. The complainant was not initially interviewed as the complaint was resolved prior to the Grand Jury interviewing the Chief of Police.
"Isleton, incorporated in 1923, with a current population of fewer than 900, is the smallest city within Sacramento County. As a general law city operating under the statutes of the State of California, it has an elected city council with five members." 1 The City has a non-salaried mayor and a salaried police chief with two full time officers and five reserve officers.
1998-1999 Policies and Procedures of the Police Department and City GovernmentA detailed description of the above investigations and responses can be seen in previous Grand Jury Final Reports at the Central Library in the City of Sacramento or the Grand Jury web site at www.sacgrandjury.org.
Members of the Grand Jury reviewed the City of Isleton Police Department's Policy and Procedures Manual:
Section 3.29 - Conversion of Property states:
Section 3.47 - Radio Discipline states:
All members and employees of the department operating the radio, either from mobile units or in the communications center, shall observe regulations for such operation as set forth in departmental orders and by the Federal Communications Commission.
Departmental personnel are reminded that the City's radio system is an integral part of the daily operation of the department and it is essential that it be used in a totally professional manner. Other law enforcement agencies and numerous citizens monitor our nonscrambled traffic on a continuous basis, hence some thought must be given to the content of information routinely transmitted.
It is imperative that members on duty remain in contact with the dispatcher. Whenever leaving a unit, members shall notify dispatch of their location, and remain in contact through use of a portable radio or cellular telephone if available.
Section 3.48 - Location Identification (10-20)
It is the official policy of this department that personnel responding to all initial radio calls will provide their current location. Generally recognized landmarks will be used. A sped location is required. This policy also applies to dispatched request for "10-20".
Section 13.00 - Impounding, Towing, Search, and Inventory of Vehicles
The Fourth Amendment to the US. Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searched and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "
The Fourth Amendment's applicability to vehicles is beyond question. The Supreme Court decided this in Preston v. United States.
Officers are to take note of certain liabilities involved and make sure that when making a seizure of a vehicle, that it is done with common sense, reasonableness (as provided in the Preston us. US case) and within the scope of his authority and code provisions.
Courts have held that Citizens should be allowed to make disposition of their vehicles when:
1. The driver or owner is on the scene.
When it comes to impounding, towing, searching, and taking inventory of vehicles, they must be done under the following provisions:
ALL SEIZURES AND SEARCHES MUST COMPLY WITH THE FOURTH AMENDMENT.
NON- EVIDENTIARY SEIZURES OF VEHICLE MUST CONFORM TO THE DUE PROCESS RIGHTS OF THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT
Officers are to use caution in this area. A violation of a vehicle owner's constitutional rights, under the aforementioned amendment, will surely subject himself and the agency in a deep pocket civil rights suit under the theory of conversion or illegal deprivation of property.
CHP Form 180, Vehicle Report Chapter 10, of the Vehicle Code. 22650 through 22661
Officers are urged to keep in mind the impact of vehicle seizures, the cost and hardship it may cause some persons in given situations. On the other hand, officers can use the authority to seize and store as an effective enforcement action.
Section 6.16 - Procedures for Handling Property
I. CLASSIFICATION OF PROPERTY
A. EVIDENCE: Property which may be related to a crime or which may implicate or clear a person of a criminal charge.
H. PROCEDURES FOR DEPOSITING PROPERTY
a. Except for items that are placed in a marked evidence container, upon which is a facsimile of the property stamp has been placed, the employee shall also prepare a Property Tag and attached it to the property item.
3. The employee shall make appropriate inquiries to the National Crime Information Center and the State Department of Justice computer, regarding serialized or identifiable items of property, to determine if the property is reported stolen.
a. The employee shall place small property items, together with the Property Record/ Receipt, in a temporary storage property locker.
1. The employee shall secure such items left in the storage building, with a chain and padlock whenever possible.
WITHDRAWAL AND RETURN OF PROPERTY, GENERALLY
WITHDRAWAL OF PROPERTY
B. Procedures for the withdrawal of property
1. The following procedures shall be completed in all instances:
RETURN OF PROPERTY
A. Procedures for the Return of Property
1. Property withdrawn from the property storage areas, but not retained at its destination, shall be returned to the property system as follows:
a. The person returning the property shall sign his or her name in the space provided on the Property Transfer form, and shall place the returned property, together with the Property Transfer form, in a temporary storage property locker.
DISPOSAL OF PROPERTY
A. Authorized Methods of Property Disposal
1. Return to owner or finder
A. Procedures applicable to all Methods of Property Disposal:
1. No item of property held by the agency shall be disposed of in any manner until a Property Release authorization form is prepared, containing the Chief of Police's signature of approval and listing disposal instructions.
1. When there are two or more defendants involved, property shall not be disposed of until all defendants' trials have been conducted.
RELEASE OF PROPERTY
B. Property shall be released to the owner only after the owner has:
1. Provided satisfactory proof of ownership; presented proper personal identification; and signed the declaration of ownership on the Property Release Authorization Form....
Members of the Grand Jury compared the policies and procedures for the City of Isleton Police Department with another law enforcement agency in Sacramento County. It appears to be a common departmental policy and practice in the jurisdiction reviewed, that officers be in radio, pager or cellular contact while on duty, except in extraordinary circumstances. For traffic stops, the usual practice is to send vehicle license numbers to central communications (dispatch) by computer or over radio communication and to wait for verification that the vehicle is stolen or not, before the officer leaves his or her car to issue a citation.
Members of the Grand Jury heard testimony from eight individuals who related eleven separate incidents alleging improper police activity. Allegations were made that these incidents were far more pervasive than the eleven told to the members of the Grand Jury and were targeted towards minorities, especially non-English speaking Hispanics.
Witnesses told the Grand Jury members individuals were left to walk miles along the levee road to the nearest pay telephone, after being cited for driving without a valid driver's license and having their vehicle towed. The danger at night to such a person, if he or she were to be injured, creates a liability to the City of Isleton that could be avoided. if the officer transported the individual to the nearest pay telephone or offered the use of the officer's cellular telephone.
Members of the Grand Jury were told that in order for these persons to retrieve their property, they first had to see the Chief of Police during normal business hours to receive his written approval in order to release their property. They then had to return to the Police Department on a weekend when the part-time reserve officer who controlled the evidence locker was on duty, and present the written authorization to release their property. The Chief of Police and this part-time officer were the only two in the department with keys to the evidence locker.
Staying in radio or telephone contact while on duty is paramount to the officer's safety. If an officer were to be injured in such a situation, the police department would be unable to assist because his or her location is unknown.
Findings and Recommendations
Finding # 1: The City of Isleton Police Department has in place adequate policies and procedures that require an officer to maintain radio or telephone contact with the central communications center (dispatch).
Finding #2: Isleton police officers failed to remain in contact with the central communications center (dispatcher).
Finding #3: The Grand Jury heard testimony that at least two motorists, after being stopped and cited for driving without a valid drivers license, had their vehicle towed and impounded, and were left on the levee road to walk approximately three miles to the nearest pay telephone.
Finding #4: Nine of the eleven incidents alleging improper police activity involved persons with Hispanic sounding surnames.
Finding #5: The City of Isleton, Chief of Police, by assigning a reserve, part-time officer to control the evidence locker and the property storage locker area, created a hardship on persons forced to reclaim their property on a weekend.
Penal Code Section 933.05 requires that specific responses to both the findings and recommendations contained in this Report be submitted to the Presiding Judge of the Sacramento Superior Court by September 30, 2001, from:
· Chief of Police, City of Isleton