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Liability an issue for county gang task force

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After two years of operating on an ad hoc basis, the county’s gang task force is formalizing its operations to deal with liability issues.

The county, the various local cities and state and federal agencies that work together in the task force will sign agreements to coordinate services, according to Sheriff Don Horsley.

“It’s basically just a framework to protect the individual [police] departments in case of a lawsuit,” Sheriff’s Capt. Don O’Keefe said.

Without agreements, an injured party could submit a claim to all agencies participating in the task force, and each agency could be required to defend its officers, Horsley told county supervisors before they unanimously approved the request Tuesday.

Agreements between the agencies will simplify the legal process by requiring the agencies that actually caused the damage to take the lead in defending the claim, officials said.

The task force began operating two years ago on a $50,000 operation budget from the county, with cities providing officers to staff the task force. It has been instrumental in reining in gang violence on the Peninsula, particularly in East Palo Alto, according to San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer.


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