The Merced County civil grand jury released findings this week that officers at the Dos Palos Police Department had a track record of filing late reports.
The jury's conclusions about Dos Palos police were contained in its 2011-12 Final Report, which was released to the public Tuesday.
The 19-member grand jury investigated a complaint that stated police reports at the department weren't filed in a timely manner. Generally, according to the department's policies, reports are supposed to be filed at the end of the officer's shift -- unless the officer receives approval from a supervisor to hold the report over.
The jury determined, however, that there were discrepancies between the time the reports were scheduled to be completed and when officers actually completed them. Some of the police reports, according to the grand jury, hadn't been filed even after several weeks or months had passed.
As a result, the jury recommended that the department "implement procedures to ensure that reports are filed timely and according to the agency's policies and procedures."
The report also acknowledged that the department, which has seven sworn officers in a city of about 5,000 people, is small and understaffed.
Dos Palos Police Chief Barry Mann responded to the report Tuesday, saying that he's already implemented procedures to keep reports from lingering.
Mann said officers at the department are now required to fill out a form whenever reports aren't filed at the end of their shifts, with an explanation. Mann said those forms are submitted directly to him for approval.
"Whatever the reason is, they have to give a notice to me on why they didn't complete it, and then I look at it and determine if that was a valid reason or not," Mann said.
Mann said he implemented the new procedure two months ago, and that it appears to be solving the problem. Mann said his decision to implement the new procedures was independent of the grand jury's investigation, after he recognized there was a problem.
"When this (report) came out, and even when (the jury) made their inquiry, it was something we were already working on," he said.
The grand jury investigated the complaint earlier this year, reviewing the department's policies and procedures, 911 call logs and several months of police reports. The grand jury also conducted an inspection of the department in February.
This year's report wasn't the first time Dos Palos police were criticized by the civil grand jury. In 2006, the civil grand jury stated that the department was poorly managed and in total disarray, with police reports missing and more than 200 of them deemed incomplete.
Dan Gaines, foreman of 2011-12 civil grand jury, said he wasn't on the jury six years ago when that scathing report was released.
Despite the lingering issue of untimely reports, Gaines praised the small law enforcement agency. "They're doing well with what they have," Gaines said. "We didn't see any rampant misuse or abuse."
Gaines also spoke positively about Mann, saying that he advocates strongly for additional resources for his department at City Council meetings.
"The police chief was very open to us," he said. "We know he's doing the best he can for his community," Gaines said.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.