L.A. County Board of Supervisors Demonstrates Lack of Control Over Probation Department

After a long history of bad behavior, it seemed the L.A. County Probation Department’s reputation was finally on the mend. For years, former Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers fought hard, with weak support from its Board of Supervisors, to restrain department staff members from engaging in acts of corruption, misconduct, and even violence against juveniles, within the system.

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And while he successfully prevented numerous disreputable deputies from achieving expected promotions, Powers ultimately left the department in 2015 following strong pressure from supervisors that were more interested in keeping the peace with employee unions. So instead of paving the way for an honorable legacy, Powers’ resignation ironically facilitated a reversal in the progress he made.

According to an article published by the Los Angeles Times, far from working toward a more reformed department, interim successor Cal Remington cooperated with probation officers’ unions to promote over 50 deputies with disciplinary records. Remington’s decision was met with great contempt by supervisors who claimed he acted without approval or even notification from the board.

The promotion agreement appeared especially egregious since it closely followed a widely publicized incident in which several deputies were videotaped physically abusing a teenager in custody at Sylmar juvenile hall. As a result, Remington gave the impression that jailers could commit transgressions with relative impunity.

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But if Remington works under the board’s direct authority, why was he so comfortable being insubordinate?

While the answer remains unclear, the board does have plans to revamp the Probation Department. In early September, L.A. County officials began the demolition of Camp Vernon Kilpatrick in hopes of constructing juvenile homes that value rehabilitation over punitive treatment. The board is also searching for another chief probation officer to replace Remington, a chief that will help oversee transformative efforts throughout the department.