Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Probation Officers Working in Los Angeles Juvenile Facilities Engage in Misconduct, Avoid Disciplinary Action

According to a report released in June 2010 by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR), a civilian oversight agency, lax internal investigations in the county’s Probation Department have allowed sworn probation officers to commit serious acts of misconduct while employed at juvenile detention facilities, yet avoid disciplinary action in some cases.

Los Angeles County has 21 juvenile halls and camps, which operate with around 6,000 employees – about 4,400 of whom are sworn peace officers. With only a third as many employees, the Probation Department reported as many employee arrests in 2009 as did the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

In February 2010, after the Los Angeles Times reported that some cases of misconduct by sworn probation officers had gone unpunished, the county’s Board of Supervisors asked the OIR to investigate the scope of the problem. The ensuing three-month review found that the Probation Department’s internal investigations were taking too long to complete, averaging 200 days – often longer than the statute of limitations for departmental punishment.

“The system is broken down in so many ways, from the inception of the investigation all the way through. There are bottlenecks that slow things down, and cases that should have been done, could have been done in a reasonable time, were not,” said OIR attorney Michael J. Gennaco, who led the review.

The OIR report, described by the Los Angeles Times as “scathing,” identified 31 cases of misconduct by sworn probation officers that were probably beyond the reach of departmental punishment. Nonetheless, of those 31, 18 had been charged with crimes and at least ten had been convicted. The offenses ranged from cruelty to a child and sex with a minor to prostitution, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting an officer and battery.

“You have people who have committed some egregious violations, sometimes against our kids, and they don’t get punished,” noted County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavksy.

Among the Probation Department’s shortcomings identified by the OIR was an inadequate number of surveillance cameras, which were available in only “a fraction” of juvenile halls and camps. A related problem was the apparent unwillingness of internal investigators to confront staff with incriminating security videos in cases where video footage was in fact available.

The OIR report recommended 34 improvements, including additional video surveillance, improving training and investigation tracking, and establishing on-site independent review of internal investigations.

Source: Los Angeles Times

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login