Amid an apparent investigation by the state Department of Justice, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has suspended a disciplinary program that addresses minor offenses committed by students ages 10 through 17.
A spokesperson in the state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday, Aug. 31, declined to discuss the investigation or even confirm that one was underway.
The Sheriff’s Department said it sent a letter to all participating schools this week, ordering that they immediately stop all activities with the CleanSWEEP program.
Sheriff Shannon Dicus said in a news release that the DOJ won’t say why it is investigating the program.
“While we have repeatedly asked what those concerns are, the DOJ has unfortunately refused to tell us. Nevertheless, my department has been diligently working with the DOJ. Over the past several months we have provided extensive records, materials, and pertinent information. Despite this, it is still unclear what the concerns are, or what steps we can take to remedy them,” Dicus wrote.
Under the program, school administrators can write infraction citations for criminal offenses that normally would be charged as more serious misdemeanors. The citations are then signed off by a deputy after examining them for completeness. A student is required to sign the citation as a promise to appear in court with his parents or guardian. There, a judge can issue fines or sentence the student to probation and community service.
According to a CleanSWEEP training manual, the program’s goal is to “tackle the problem of youthful offenders on campus with a multi-pronged approach, that is, with several complementary components that work together to accomplish the goal of reducing juvenile offenses on school campuses. Another purpose of the Operation is to foster a spirit of cooperation between the Sheriff’s Department and the schools (and, indirectly, the public).”
The manual says that traditionally, deputies dismiss crimes on campus as “negligible incidents” that should be handled by administrators.
“We intend to get officers interested in bettering both the school environment, and their relations with the schools themselves,” says the manual, which includes a foreward written by former Sheriff John McMahon.