Crime & Justice

LA County Board of Supervisors approves independent oversight of troubled probation department

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Los Angeles authorities are pushing to clean up the scandal-plagued county probation department. County supervisors took a step in that direction Tuesday by approving a motion that allows an independent agency to oversee the department.

Under the new arrangement, the L.A. County Office of Independent Review will monitor and help revamp the broken probation system. That office would join new probation chief Donald Blevins as he seeks to hire qualified managers and take disciplinary action against staffers accused of abuse or misconduct.

The independent review office issued a harsh report earlier this month. It found that at least 31 probation department employees had committed serious crimes – some against children.

Former probation department staffer Wendy Ramallo testified at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. She said she saw plenty of problems.

“I went to the Department of Probations for a short period as a senior exempt manager, thinking that I was going to be able to do some good," said Ramallo. "Anyone that wanted to do good and be competent and professional had the same faith that I did. They were just marginalized and in some instances harassed and threatened like I was.”

Ramallo said she supports a recommendation by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for the federal Justice Department to take greater control of the probation department. But other supervisors said they don’t want more federal involvement right now. They’d like to give probation chief Blevins, along with the independent review board, time to overhaul the department.