Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Twin Rivers must disband police force - Sacramento Bee

The decision by the majority of the Twin Rivers Unified School District board of trustees last week to substitute its judgment for that of veteran law enforcement professionals perfectly illustrates why the district's Police Department needs to be disbanded.

Acting Twin Rivers Police Chief Scott LaCosse and his second in command, Lt. Mike Sales, resigned after the Twin Rivers board voted 4-2 to reinstate the department's K-9 unit over their objections. LaCosse, a former captain with the Sacramento Police Department and Sales, a former lieutenant with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, were brought in just eight months ago to quell chaos in a department shaken by public outcry over excessive traffic stops and aggressive towing.

The department is under investigation for criminal conduct, mismanagement and misconduct. In the past, regional law enforcement leaders complained of "call jumping" â€" with Twin Rivers' officers spending too much time responding to general law enforcement calls and too little time at school sites.

Acting Chief LaCosse had revised the department's mission to refocus police back to campuses. In that effort, a police dog, he concluded, created huge liability for the district and was not in line with its revised mission.

Reached Tuesday, LaCosse said his decision was not made lightly, that he had conferred with top police managers across the region, who all agreed.

In rejecting the advice of veteran officers brought in to correct a dangerously mismanaged department, the Twin Rivers board has shown it is incapable of exercising responsible oversight. In his eight months at the helm, LaCosse said he has uncovered chaos in the evidence room, including narcotics taken into evidence in 1983. He expressed dismay about the quality of police officers under his command. "Half the force," he says, "needs to be doing something else."

The two top law enforcement officials in the region have also expressed growing alarm. If the board continues to substitute its judgment for that of law enforcement professionals, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said "absolutely, it should be disbanded. The board doesn't have the technical knowledge or wherewithal to run a police department and it's doomed to failure."

Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel thinks the school board should look seriously at disbanding its police force and contracting out for law enforcement services. He estimates Twin Rivers could save $1 million annually by contracting with the Sacramento Police Department.

Police problems at Twin Rivers are not new to the fledgling school district. Its predecessor agency, the Grant Union High School District police force, was regularly embroiled in controversy. A police department is a complicated organization that few school boards are equipped to manage.

Clearly, Twin Rivers is in over its head. The board should acknowledge that and disband this department as soon as possible.

The Bee's past stands

"The Twin Rivers school district clearly lacks the capacity to administer a modern law enforcement agency. The newly elected majority on the Twin Rivers board of trustees has more urgent business, such as overseeing the schools."

â€" June 30, 2012

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