Santa Ana Police Chief Addresses Jail and Bail with OC Bondsmen
The monthly meeting of Orange County bondsmen welcomed Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, Mike Edwards, his legal counsel, and Russ Davis, Santa Ana PD Jail Administrator. Police Chief Walters began the meeting with an interesting recount of how he came to the Department nearly 20 years ago and evolution of the Santa Ana Jail.
Apparently, many years ago, the Santa Ana Police Department made the decision to release all misdemeanors on a citation (known as “O.R.” or “Cite Out” and also called a “promise to appear”) and house only felony arrestees. According to Chief Walters, the Santa Ana experience was that 95 to 98% of bailees returned to court to address the charges compared with only 25% of defendants who were cited out. In the case of non-appearance, a bench warrant is issued for the defendant which, in the case of Santa Ana at the time, put additional duties on an already stretched-too-tight police force. The results of this practice carried a clear message: bail is a stronger, safer way to release defendants.
By my understanding, this is where Police Chief Walters came in. In order to deal with the problem immediately, he leased a pre-fab 100 man jail which was paid for with drug dealer assets. When that jail was replaced with a permanent facility which opened nearly 12 years ago, Santa Ana built the jail as a business: building a jail four times larger than needed (imagine that: forward thinking!) and Santa Ana leased space to out to house Federal prisoners. This practice continues today. The Santa Ana Police Department went even further: they hired civilian correctional employees in order to keep their police officers on the street.
Fast forward to today: Russ Davis reviewed for bondsmen how the department handles, processes and houses those arrested by the Santa Ana Police Department. He told bondsmen that his department views the police officers as his customers: officers need to be on the street, not in the jail. He said Santa Ana officers are back out on the street in an average of 10 minutes through a process known as “Fast Booking”.
From that point, defendants are booked by corrections employees and kept at the Santa Ana jail an average of 4 – 6 hours, before being transferred by underground tunnel to the Orange County Jail directly accross the street. This time-frame is longer or shorter based on return of finger prints for positive identification.
In Q&A, Cheif Walters was asked to comment on bondsmen’s perception that there are people on Santa Ana streets near the Orange County jail who are illegally negotiating bail bonds. The Cheif offered to have an Santa Ana officer speak directly with bondsmen to understand and resolve the issue.
Bondsmen also asked about the ability to bail arrestees directly from Santa Ana rather than waiting for transfer to the County jail as has been the experience. Mr. Davis indicated that it is possible to bail defendants directly from Santa Ana and that his department would work with bondsmen to identify barriers to that process.
Concluding the meeting, the Cheif offered to all, “I’ll leave you my card; it’s good for a free night’s stay.” Open to hear bondsmen’s concerns, genuinely interested in the public good, fiscally aware and a good sense of humor.