Thursday, January 27, 2005

BOARD OF CORRECTIONS APPROVES INDEPENDENT REVIEW PANEL TO INVESTIGATE

The Board of Corrections (BOC) today unanimously approved a request from Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman to empanel a group of national and state correctional experts to conduct an operational and incident review of the homicide of Correctional Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez.

The panel will not begin its study until the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has completed its own review of the investigation. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was the lead investigative agency, and turned the case over to the DA this week.

The panel will provide immediate recommendations for improvements of operations in areas identified by their review and the review of California’s Office of the Inspector General.

“It is imperative that we learn all we can about this incident so that we can avoid a similar tragedy from occurring ever again,” said Secretary Hickman. “This independent review will provide the leadership of the Agency and the Department of Corrections with objective, needed insight into this attack and the events leading up to it, to ensure that those circumstances will be averted in the future.”

Hickman, as chair of the Board of Corrections, asked the board to appoint New York State Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Glenn S. Goord as chairman of the panel. Hickman is also asking that the Board appoint the following individuals to the group; Assistant Secretary for Internal Affairs (A) Joe McGrath, San Diego Sheriff William B. Kolender, Brian Parry of the National Major Gang Task Force, and Los Angeles County Jail Commander John L. Scott. The group will also include a representative from the National Institute of Corrections, and another national expert chosen by Commissioner Goord.

“Commissioner Goord, will bring years of security and correctional experience to this task and I know his leadership will bring an honest and accurate assessment of the facts surrounding this murder and provided us with sound and reasoned recommendation,” Hickman said.

“This operational review, in conjunction with the Inspector General’s review, will give us within the Correctional system of California the information we need to properly protect the officers who work the line every day,” he said.

Officer Gonzalez was killed in the line of duty Monday, Jan 10, as he was working to calm down inmates who were becoming disruptive. An inmate attacked Gonzalez and stabbed him three times, with an inmate-made weapon. He died as he was being transported to the hospital. Gonzalez is the first correctional officer killed in the line of duty in California in nearly 10 years and the first officer from the Department of Corrections killed since 1985.

During the review process the panel will interview staff at the institution and administrators throughout the department. They will conduct their review independent of the criminal investigation in order to ensure the integrity of the criminal case that the department and local law enforcement are working to build, Hickman said.

The Board of Corrections is statutorily responsible to set training and operations standards for correctional facilities throughout the state. The Board membership includes representatives from state and local government public safety agencies including the directors of the Department of Corrections and the Department of the Youth Authority.