In effort to 'regain public trust,' L.A. County announces 66 probation officers put on leave

The Los Angeles County Probation Department has announced that 66 officers have been put on administrative leave this year in a series of cases that include allegations of sexual misconduct and the use of excessive force.

The announcement was billed as an effort to "regain public trust" in an agency roiled by scandal in recent years amid staffing shortages and the intense scrutiny of its facilities by a state oversight board.

"We are releasing this information in the spirit of greater transparency and to assure our stakeholders — especially the families of youths in our juvenile facilities — that we will not tolerate anything that impedes our mission to provide a safe, nurturing and structured environment for those entrusted to our care," Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa said in a prepared statement.

Despite the transparency pledge, officials offered scant details about each investigation. But some cases have been well-documented by The Times.

Read more: Video shows L.A. probation officers letting group beat teen in Los Padrinos juvenile hall

In one, youths took turns beating a 17-year-old inside Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey while officers stood by, some apparently laughing and shaking hands with the assailants during the attack.

The Times published video of the attack and previously reported that eight officers were suspended for failing to intervene in a fight. Video of the incident raised questions about whether the assault was orchestrated.

The cases related to youth-on-youth violence — which includes the Los Padrinos case — are under investigation by the California attorney general, the department said.

Another 18 officers put on leave were accused of sexual misconduct. A spokesperson refused to provide more information Tuesday about these cases.

In March, a probation officer was arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct involving a minor who was being held in a juvenile facility. Investigators found a cellphone from a youth in custody at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce that contained intimate texts and photos between the youth and the officer, the department previously said.

Read more: L.A. County probation officer accused of sex with jailed youth

Other cases involved allegations of child endangerment or abuse, possession of contraband and negligent supervision, the department said.

Los Angeles County supervisors at their Tuesday board meeting appeared pleased with Viera Rosa’s efforts to root out problematic officers.

“That I’m certain sends a message … to all employees that we mean business,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said to Viera Rosa, who was there to report on improvements he was making to the agency.

Times staff writers Rebecca Ellis and James Queally contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.