Bus full of inmates breaks down en route to SF jail

An aging San Francisco Sheriff's Department van (Courtesy San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs' Association)

A San Francisco Sheriff’s Department convoy transporting dozens of prisoners to jail at the Hall of Justice was temporarily stuck on the side of the road last week when an inmate transportation bus broke down for the second time this summer.

The bus had 25 inmates aboard when it lost power last Wednesday on Skyline Boulevard between College Drive and Westborough Boulevard in Pacifica, according to an incident report from the scene. Deputies stood guard with shotguns to prevent inmate escapes while waiting for assistance.

For Ken Lomba, head of the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, the engine failure was just one example of the state of disrepair that some department vehicles are in. Lomba said when another bus full of inmates stalled on Interstate 280 in July, the battery died in a van headed to pick up the inmates.

Lomba called on The City to expedite the process for purchasing and repairing department vehicles. The Sheriff’s Department sought funding to replace the department’s aging fleet during the budget process earlier this year.

“Having safe and reliable vehicles is critical to the daily operations of the Sheriff’s Department,” Lomba said. “When a bus, van or sheriff’s patrol car breaks down, it should be treated as a priority repair and the repairs should be expedited without delay. We should not be in line for repairs with non-emergency vehicles.”

An aging San Francisco Sheriff’s Department van (Courtesy San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association)

The bus that broke down last week was part of a convoy of two buses and two vans transporting 61 inmates from County Jail 5 in San Bruno.

The bus stopped working at around 7:28 a.m., just over an hour before court proceedings begin at the Hall of Justice.

The bus slowed to 20 mph while driving uphill when the deputy behind the wheel said, “we’re losing power, I have to pull over,” according to the incident report.

The deputies pulled over and radioed for assistance.

One deputy picked up another bus from San Bruno while backup arrived in vans.

The deputies then moved 25 inmates, including six on administrative segregation for violent or disruptive behavior, from the stalled bus to the functioning one.

The deputies created a barrier between the roadway and the inmates to protect the public and stood at the ends of each bus with shotguns to protect the public.

They locked the administrative segregation inmates in vans in pairs and moved the general population inmates onto the new bus first.

The convoy left for the Hall of Justice at around 8:10 a.m. and the inmates were in holding tanks awaiting court by 9:15 a.m.

mbarba@sfexaminer.comCrimeHall of JusticeSFsheriff bussheriff vehicles

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An aging San Francisco Sheriff's Department patrol car (Courtesy San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs' Association)

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