The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has suspended the CleanSWEEP program because of an investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

CleanSWEEP (Success with Education/Enforcement Partnership) is a disciplinary program launched on three high schools in 1997 is designed to address minor offences in the school setting through non-criminal procedures with a focus to keep kids in school and out of suspension/expulsion procedures.

The sheriff’s website calls it the most innovative school safety program in the United States.

“Youngsters receiving citations for such crimes as littering and possessing tobacco products and alcohol, face fines, but they also face the kind of diversionary programs that can help them avoid trouble with the law in the future” the website says.

Sheriff Shannon D. Dicus sent a letter to all participating school districts informing them of the suspension. The letter contained the following information:

“Effective immediately, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is suspending the CleanSWEEP program and asks you to also immediately cease all CleanSWEEP activities at your campuses. I feel compelled to take this step out of an abundance of caution, and to better focus our ongoing response to DOJ requests and inquiries.

“Recently, the California Department of Justice informed us that it was investigating CleanSWEEP in light of some concerns expressed to the DOJ about 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.”

“It is our hope that these unknown concerns are either unfounded or can be addressed through collaborative efforts, focused on positive student outcomes.”

An article in the March 2021 edition by Gary S. Penrod called the program an innovative program is showing success in reducing crime on school campus.

By the numbers

Since the program’s inception suspensions fell from 248 in academic year 1996-97 to 181 in 1997-98 and expulsions dropped from 4,509 in 1996-1997 to 3,788 the following year.

Calls for service to local sheriff’s stations also dropped by as much as 34%, suggesting a drop in crimes being committed. The program is moving beyond high schools to include middle schools.