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It's Your Right to Know:
A Research Guide on Juvenile Justice in California

April 2003

Glossary of Government Agencies & Departments

Attorney General: (state) The attorney general is the top lawyer for the state of California. The Attorney general's office is part of the California Department of Justice. The Attorney General is in charge of representing California in civil cases and some criminal matters. The AG also helps local district attorneys and police with investigations when necessary, operates statewide drug enforcement operations, and generates and compiles data on criminal justice matters on the state and county level.

Auditor-Controller: (city and county) Auditor-controllers are the money monitors for city and county governments. The auditor monitors accounting systems, conducts regular audits, documents fiscal transactions, computes tax rates, and corrects tax rolls. The controller approves payments and issues checks for goods and services purchased, issues the payroll, handles accounts receivable, and estimates revenue for the budget of city or county offices, schools, agencies, and special districts. Sometimes there are two separate offices, but it is usually combined into a single office within the Department of Finance.

California Board of Corrections: (state) The California Board of Corrections governs the maintenance and operations of local jails and juvenile halls. The board inspects local correctional facilities for compliance with state law, gives technical and financial assistance to counties for jail construction.

California Department of Corrections: (state) The California Department of Corrections operates all state prisons, oversees community correctional facilities, and supervises all parolees during the re-entry process.

California Department of Finance: (state) The California Department of Finance prepares the states annual financial plan and advises the Governor's office on the annual budget and fiscal policy.

California Legislative Analysis Office: (state) The Legislative Analysis Office reviews the annual budget and makes recommendations about spending priorities, waste and pork- barrel spending.

California Youth Authority: (state) CYA is like the statewide prison system for youth. There are 11 CYA facilities in California. At these facilities, The CYA is supposed to be responsible for overseeing training and treatment. Once youth are released, the CYA is supposed to supervise work release, community and victim restoration for juveniles. CYA coordinates youth crime prevention programs.

City Attorney: (city) The city attorney is the lawyer and advisor for all city government departments. The city attorney drafts laws and legal documents and represents they city in all legal actions.

City Clerk: (city) The city clerk is the record keeper and secretary for the city council. The city clerk keeps records of all city council activities, city-owned property transactions, city elections, financial records, franchises, and ordinances. The clerk also administers oaths of office, provides administrative and personnel services to the city council, provides background research and documents to council members. Sometimes the clerk is elected, but usually the position is appointed.

City Manager: (city) The City Manager is the operations officer for the city. The City Manager's main duties include: to advise, inform, and recommend actions to the mayor and city council.

Civilian Police Review Board: (city) A civilian police review board is a city agency separate from the police department that takes complaints about police. It is not required that every city have a civilian police review board, and many cities do not have them. The power of a civilian police review board varies from city to city, but usually, a police review board has the power to review complaints of misconduct by police officers, conduct fact-finding investigations and make advisory reports to either the City Manager or the police chief.

County Clerk: (county) Collects and maintains county legal records and documents. Duties of the County Clerk vary from county to county. In many counties it is typical for the County Clerk to be combined with the Recorder's office.

District Attorney: (county) District attorneys are the lawyers for the county that prosecute criminal cases. When a person is arrested, the district attorney decides whether the person will face criminal charges and what the charges will be. The district attorney also presents evidence in court against criminal defendants and advocates for the sentence that the district attorney thinks the criminal defendant should receive. For juveniles in California, district attorneys also have the power to automatically transfer a juvenile to adult court for certain crimes.

Internal Affairs: (city) Internal affairs is part of the police department. It is the office in the police department that responds to complaints about police and reviews internal management issues. IA receives and investigates complaints about officers, other department personnel, and police practices. IA interviews witnesses, makes findings, and prepares case summaries. Sometimes IA offices also maintain complaint statistics, recommend risk management practices, and coordinate cases with the staff from the city's civilian police review board.

Police Department: (city) The police are supposed to fight crime. The police are responsible for enforcement of laws, investigative services, traffic enforcement, and issuing, controlling and revoking of certain types of business permits. In some cities, the department ALSO handles animal control, property storage, evidence collection and analysis, statistical reporting, abandoned vehicle abatement, crime analysis, street crossing guards, and K-9 dogs.

Probation Department/Office: (county) The probation department is in charge of supervising people who have been sentenced and placed on probation. People on probation have to follow certain rules that the judge gives them (like participating in a drug program or being home every night after 6 PM) and stay within county limits until their probation is over. Probation officers manage probation cases, including keeping in contact with people on probation and administering court ordered conditions of release.

Public Affairs: (city) Public Affairs is a city office that usually handles communication between the city and the media and/or the public. The public affairs office may publicize events and provide information to media outlets, police staff or other city agencies. They also respond to queries from groups, organizations, and individuals.

Sheriff Department: (county) The Sheriff's Department runs the county jail and polices the parts of the county that are not inside any city boundaries. Sheriffs also transport prisoners to and from the jail, serve papers in civil lawsuits, provide courtroom bailiffs and marshals, assist other public safety agencies in the county, and provide services to the superior court. The department may also issue certain licenses and permits. All counties must elect a sheriff. Some counties combine the offices of sheriff and coroner.

Superior Court: (county) The county superior court is the court where most lawsuits and criminal cases are filed. In California, superior courts have the authority to hear most criminal, civil, family, and probate (will) cases. They also maintain court records of their proceedings.

A joint project of the DataCenter's Criminal Justice Program & Youth Strategy Project and Books not Bars

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Investigating the Police
Prison Expansion
Criminal Justice Demographics
Budgets & Campaign Contributions
More Criminal Justice Research Resources


Sample Public Records Requests
Tips on Filing Public Records Requests
Glossary of Government Agencies & Departments
California Juvenile Justice System Map

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