The Los Angeles County Probation Department has taken decisive action by placing eight probation officers on administrative leave in the wake of a notable occurrence at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall last December. Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa, in a statement released on January 10, asserted that immediate steps were taken on January 4 following notification from the department’s chief safety and security officer regarding an alleged instance of misconduct involving the officers and the juveniles.
Expressing an unwavering commitment to providing a secure environment conducive to the rehabilitation of the youth under their care, Viera Rosa stated, “We are actively identifying and removing those who do not align with our core values and standards to eliminate the negative influences within our organization.”
Despite the department’s public commitment to transparency and accountability, it refrained from divulging specific details about the incident. However, anonymous sources cited by The Los Angeles Times claim that the officers were captured on camera standing passively while the assault unfolded. The victim reportedly endured a broken nose and required hospitalization, according to one source.
Responding to Viera Rosa’s request, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has assumed responsibility for the investigation, superseding the Probation Department’s internal affairs unit. Additionally, the Probation Department, with the Board of Supervisors’ approval on January 9, is exploring the possibility of engaging external entities to handle future internal affairs investigations.
Supervisor Janice Hahn, representing the district encompassing the juvenile hall in Downey, supported the decision to suspend the eight officers. She emphasized the importance of an independent investigation conducted by the Sheriff’s Department.
This disciplinary action unfolds against the backdrop of a tumultuous year in the county’s juvenile detention system. Regulatory authorities closed down the county’s two juvenile halls due to substandard conditions, prompting urgent renovations to Los Padrinos, which reopened to accommodate displaced juveniles. Simultaneously, a surge in drug incidents within the halls resulted in a teenager’s overdose death, multiple hospitalizations, and heightened security measures.
Despite initial aspirations for a fresh start, Los Padrinos has faced challenges, including two violent escape attempts in the six months since its reopening. The facility has also fallen short in key inspections conducted by state regulators. If the deficiencies identified last year are not rectified by the facility’s next inspection, closure may be imminent.
In essence, the probation officers’ suspension underscores the ongoing complexities within the county’s juvenile detention system, requiring steadfast efforts to address internal issues and provide a safe environment for rehabilitation.