Arrests of LA County probation employees are down

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LA County Seal over Google map.

LA County Seal over Google map.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Fewer Los Angeles County probation employees were arrested in 2011 and 2012 on suspicion of drunken driving, drug possession, fraud, theft and other crimes, the chief probation officer said today, crediting reforms for the decline.

“Where we have found misconduct, we have taken immediate action,” said Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers, who stepped in as head of the department in December 2011.

Arrests of those paid to kept criminals in check were down 56.7 percent from 2011 to 2013, with a third of the decline coming in 2013, according to department statistics.

A spate of more than 40 arrests over 12 months in 2011-12 were the result of a crackdown on misconduct, officials said at the time. The vast majority of those booked were sworn officers and included a high-ranking division chief picked up by the FBI for bank fraud.

“Investigations into on- and off-duty misconduct are a top priority,” Powers said. “We are seeing results due in large part to a more robust internal affairs investigative division and an increased emphasis and enforcement of clearly communicated performance and behavior expectations.”

For example, first-time drunken driving arrests result in a minimum 15 days suspension without pay. Aggravating factors — such as s high blood- alcohol content or the failure to report an arrest — can push the suspension to 25 days.

Nearly three times as many employees are being fired, up 180 percent from 2011 to 2013 and five times as many staffers resigned instead of being fired during the same period, according to the department.

An attorney from the Office of Independent Review acknowledged the changes.

“I think the department’s focus on clarity and deterrence is beginning to bear fruit,” said Robert Miller, deputy chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review.

Stricter hiring standards seem to have cut back on misconduct, but they have also made it harder for the department to fill hundreds of open positions.

About 60 percent of applicants fail initial exams, while another 30 percent fail polygraph tests and background investigations, according to Powers.

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