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.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Secretary Asks for Review of Officer Homicide California Board of Corrections Asked to Appoint an Independent Panel of National and State Correctional Experts to Review Incident

Memorandum on "APPOINTMENT OF A BOARD OF EXPERTS"

Sacramento – In a letter sent to the executive officer of the California Board of Corrections, (attached) Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman today asked the Board 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.

“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.”

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.

In addition to the panel’s review, the Secretary met with the Inspector General the day after the homicide and asked his office to conduct an administrative review of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Officer Gonzalez. The OIG will identify areas that need improvement. The Secretary has directed the department to cooperate with OIG’s review of the incident to ensure that it is completed in a timely manner.

Additionally, the department is working with local law enforcement and the San Bernardino District Attorney as they conduct their criminal investigation of the homicide. Neither of the reviews will interfere with the criminal investigation.

Hickman, as chair of the Board of Corrections, is asking the board at its January 27 meeting 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.

The last officer killed in California was Youth Correctional Officer Ineasie Baker at Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in 1996. The last Department of Corrections Officer killed in the line of duty was Correctional Sergeant Howell D. Burchfield at San Quentin State Prison in 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.

Monday, January 10, 2005

16-Year Veteran CDC Correctional Officer Dies From Inmate Stabbing Attack

Correctional Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez, Jr., 43, a 16-year employee of the California Department of Corrections, died today following a stabbing incident involving an inmate at California Institution for Men (CIM). Today’s tragic murder of a California Department of Corrections correctional peace officer is the first in nearly 20 years.

At approximately 10:50 a.m. today, Officer Gonzalez was stabbed while performing his duties at CIM. The officer was transported to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment where he subsequently died. His next of kin was notified. The CDC Law Enforcement and Investigations Unit and the Chino Police Department are conducting the investigation at this time.

Three inmates are being questioned about today’s incident. One inmate is believed to have been responsible for the murder; however, investigators are questioning two other inmates.

The primary inmate suspect in the murder is Jon Christopher Blaylock, 35, who was committed from Los Angeles County in June 2004 after being convicted of attempted murder of a peace officer. He was given a sentence of 75 years and had served time at CDC twice before, for attempted burglary in 1990 and in 1993. He was last released from prison in April 2002.

Roderick Q. Hickman, Secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, issued a statement:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Gonzalez’ family at this tragic time. When something like this happens, all of us in the Corrections family are deeply impacted and pained. There is no greater loss than to lose a brother officer killed in the line of duty. I know as professionals we will pull together to help Officer Gonzalez’ children and parents deal with this loss and all of us throughout this state will pull together to help heal the wound that has been inflicted on our agency and state.

I also want to assure the family and the officers who served with Manuel Gonzalez that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the ones responsible for this crime are held accountable to the highest degree of the law.”

CDC Director Jeanne S. Woodford issued a statement:

“My condolences go out to the family of Correctional Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez, Jr. I do not have the words to express my grief and sadness. It has been nearly 20 years since a CDC employee died in the line of duty. Prison design, the classification system, and CDC policies and procedures all contribute to staff safety, but the risk is always there that we could be subjected to severe injury, or as in this case, give our lives for public safety.

Correctional Officer Gonzalez was a consummate professional who was well respected by his co-workers. He was reliable and approached his responsibilities with a spirit of teamwork. He was friendly, went beyond his duties to assist other staff, communicated well with inmates, and worked to make our facilities safer.

Not only was Correctional Officer Gonzalez a corrections professional, but a beloved father of five children. His death is a great loss not only to CDC, but to his family, friends and co-workers.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Correctional Officer Gonzalez’ family and friends and to those employees who knew him and worked with him at California Institution for Men, California State Prison, Los Angeles County; and Corcoran State Prison. All of us have been touched by this loss and I know that we will all pull together to support each other during this difficult time.”