LA County supervisor seeks greater oversight of Probation Department

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas today called for an expansion of the Probation Department's internal affairs staff after an investigation revealed that several juvenile probation officers had engaged in inappropriate conduct.

Current and former probationers were alleged to have committed several cases of molestation or the beating youths in their care, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Two other officers are the focus of internal affairs investigations for allegedly having sex with probationers, the Times reported.

Probation officials declined comment, saying they were prohibited from talking about the alleged misconduct. The Times identified the cases via court documents, law enforcement records and department sources.

Ridley-Thomas today called the department's internal affairs staffing "anemic.''

"Allegations of abuse can take nearly a year to resolve,'' Ridley-Thomas said. "This glacial pace, instead of deterring wrongdoing, only discourages and deflates the moral of the majority of Probation Department staffers who serve honorably.''

Ridley-Thomas expressed optimism about the ability of new leadership to restore credibility to the troubled department, but said incoming director Donald Blevins would need support. Blevins is set to take office April 19.

Ridley-Thomas plans to introduce a motion at next week's Board of Supervisors meeting designed to create more accountability within the department. He was in Washington, D.C., seeking funding for the Crenshaw light rail project during today's board meeting.

The incidents uncovered by the Times investigation included:


  • A probation officer having sex with three youths in the laundry, supply and interview rooms in the detention hall where she worked. She was sentenced last year to four years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of felony sexual abuse.
  • A probation officer caught on tape beating a youth in a juvenile hall recreation room was convicted last year of battery and sentenced to 24 months probation.
  • A probation officer was sentenced to a year in jail last year for directing five teenagers under her care to beat another youngster who she mistakenly believed had stolen her cellphone.

Los Angeles County probation officers are responsible for 3,000 youths in 21 detention halls and camps. The juvenile justice system is one of the biggest in the nation, with an annual budget of about $700 million and has been the subject of federal investigations in recent years for failing to prevent,
report and document child abuse, the Times reported.

Probation officials have sustained 102 allegations of officer misconduct involving youths at the county's halls and camps over the last three years, a department source told the Times. Many of the sustained cases involved complaints of excessive force, according to the source.

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