Law Enforcement Center on Hold

Proposal for Harold Holden Boys Ranch sent for review
Morgan Hill – Plans for operating a law enforcement training center at the vacant Harold Holden Boys Ranch have temporarily been put on hold, but officials believe it will eventually save the county money and reduce the number of juvenile escapes from the adjacent William F. James Boys Ranch. The proposal missed passing the Board of Supervisors by one vote Nov. 15.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith and Chief Probation Officer Sheila Mitchell recommended the 1.2-acre site after years of battling with the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium, who they claim was failing to provide adequate training for new officers. The move to Holden Ranch would have kept law enforcement officials in the county for training and possibly generated about $128,000 annually.

“They voted it down just for the time being. They said I didn’t get through the right committee to get it there,” Smith said. “It’s a good use for the vacant facilities. I think it will be a great benefit (for South County) – we’ll be good neighbors.”

The training center would be for educational classes only. There would not be any shooting or driving instruction occurring on the campus.

Additional law enforcement officials on the campus should provide added security, training center supporters said.

“It provides some additional services for the ranch. The potential for juvenile escapees is dramatically reduced,” said Delores Nnam, administrative services manager for the probation department.

Despite winning approval by the board in theory, the proposal was sent to the public safety subcommittee for further review.

According to Smith, the usual process for such a proposal is to send it to the public safety and justice subcommittee before submitting it to the board, however, this step is not required.

Currently, both the Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department send officers for training at Evergreen Community College, which is run by SBRPSTC. Both departments are dissatisfied with the consortium’s program and want more control over their officers training.

“For years most police departments in Santa Clara County have been choosing academies outside the consortium,” Smith said. “Very often (graduates) would have to go through a two week training period afterwards.”

The probation department occasionally sends officers to Sacramento for core training classes.

By keeping officers inside the county for training, both departments are hoping for greater program consistency. The move to Holden Ranch would also provide a financial benefit.

“It will save the county money in the long run,” said County Supervisor Don Gage, who voted in favor of the center.

Travel and lodging expenses must be paid by the county for officers to train in outside programs.

“It’s cost effective and I think it would be better to keep our people in house,” he said. “We’re having a lot of problems with the academy being taught at the college. The Sheriff came up with a proposal to get us out of it.”

The training center will cost about $880,000 in start up fees, which required a 4-5 vote. Supervisors Blanca Alvarado and Pete McHugh wanted the proposal sent to the subcommittee before releasing the funds. McHugh voiced support for the center, but would not vote for it without sending it down for review first.

The Holden Ranch was previously used as a juvenile detention center, but has been vacant for the past 18 months despite new facilities.

“It’s ideal and it’s sitting idle,” Gage said. “There’s no downside, they don’t shoot (guns) up there … It seemed like a pretty simple thing to me.”

According to Gage, the problem has to do with timing.

By the next board of supervisors meeting, the next class of the academy will have already started at Evergreen.

“If we we’re going to go with the college again we have to let them know by the next meeting,” he said.

McHugh may push to move the subcommittee meeting up before the Dec. 6 board meeting to remedy the problem.

“Bureaucracy is the only thing holding this up,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff deputy Terrance Helm. “Every delay, that’s another class that’s not going to be trained in a way that’s conducive to the Sheriff’s Office.”

What’s frustrating for Helm is that the facility is already in order – no new buildings are required.

“The timing was just right,” he said. “You’ve got facilities that are vacant. It’s perfect. It’s out of the way … It’s going to happen – it’s a matter of when.”

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