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Crime & Justice

LA County's probation chief urges his employees to be honest

The LA County Probation insignia.
The LA County Probation insignia.
Los Angeles County Probation

Be honest.

More or less, that's the message in a email directive sent to 6,100 probation workers Wednesday by L.A. County Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers. 

Employees should act in a way that "embraces honesty," wrote Powers.

"When employees commit dishonest acts, they negatively affect the interest of the County of Los Angeles, and this department," the directive said. "Honesty is an essential element of an employee's official duties."

Specifically, the memo mentions falsification of time records, abusing sick days, pilfering department property, being dishonest when questioned by investigators, and unauthorized personal use of department vehicles. 

Asked for comment, the union representing L.A. probation officers, AFSCME Local 685, issued a statement.

 "The Department's Honesty Directive is, almost entirely, a reiteration of existing policies and is more likely to generate employee complaints about management actions than net any new employee discipline," the union said. "It is another example of current management that is overly focused on the small number of employees with conduct issues, while ignoring the overwhelming number of rank and file Probation Officers who work hard every day to provide vital probationary services and protect the public's interests essentially without management's assistance."

This isn't the first time Powers has delivered the "honesty" message. In a November video message to employees, Powers noted that "a small fraction" of the Probation Department workforce "doesn't feel that honesty is an essential trait" of working for a law enforcement agency.

Issues with off-duty behavior have plagued the department for years—as have internal issues like abuse of medical leave. Since Powers arrived in December 2011, he's been tasked by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors with cleaning house.

The department, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, has been cracking down. It's added internal investigators—and in some instances, it's staged "stings" to nab less-than-honest employees. 

In the past six months, at least seven probation employees have been arrested, many on DUI charges. 

Honesty Directive