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Wednesday, March 8, 2023
LA County Supervisors Fire Embattled Probation Chief
After resisting calls for his resignation, Los Angeles County Probation Department chief Adolfo Gonzales was fired Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
“Our juvenile halls are in crisis. The state has found them unsuitable, and they are at risk of being shut down. Youth are being hurt and are not attending school. Staff are being attacked and many are not showing up to work,” Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement. “(The) void in leadership starting from the top has allowed this situation to fester. Our board’s decision to terminate Chief Gonzales is only the first step of a long road to fixing our juvenile halls and supporting the youth in our care and the staff who work with them.”
Gonzales could not be reached for comment.
Hahn and Supervisor Kathryn Barger last week called on Gonzales to resign his position, following a 5-2 vote Thursday by the county’s Probation Oversight Commission also calling for him to step down.
Gonzales, however, didn’t budge, culminating the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote Tuesday to remove him from the post.
“It’s no secret — our Probation Department is in a crisis and needs strong leadership — yet I did not see him (Gonzales) rise to the challenge on multiple occasions,” Barger said in a statement Tuesday. “He lost what little was left of my support when I visited one of our juvenile halls a few weeks ago. Although I personally saw deficiencies and ensured they were communicated to the department, over a week later nothing had been done. This is just plain unacceptable.”
Barger said she wants to send in a “strike team” to overhaul the department.
Supervisor Hilda Solis, who last week fell short of calling for Gonzales resignation, said Tuesday she is “no longer in a position to continue supporting” Gonzales, and saying she has “lost faith” in his ability to lead the agency.
“There is a serious culture issue and lack of leadership within the department,” Solis said. “To that end, in the county’s next search for a new Probation Department chief, we need someone who can take initiative and has the courage to make the necessary changes needed for our youth and adults in Probation’s supervision.”
The calls for Gonzales’ removal last week followed a Los Angeles Times report about a criminal investigation being conducted by the District Attorney’s Office into the actions of several probation officers caught on video piling on top of a teenager at a juvenile probation camp in 2020 during an argument that escalated into a physical altercation.
According to The Times, an internal disciplinary board moved in 2021 to fire a supervisor involved in the melee, but Gonzales overrode the panel and opted to continue the supervisor’s employment.
It was the latest black eye for the agency.
The Probation Department was targeted last year in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of hundreds of girls by agency staff dating back to 1985. The county’s juvenile lockups have also been criticized in recent years by state corrections officials for being unsuitable to house offenders.
Late last year, the department abruptly moved all detainees out of Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights over concerns about conditions at the facility.
Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved an emergency motion after learning that the Probation Department was auctioning off surplus firearms to dealers. Supervisors Hahn and Hilda Solis wrote in their motion that such an auction “directly compromises the board’s efforts to address the gun violence epidemic, is antithetical to the county’s values and is highly insensitive in the wake of the recent tragedy in our community,” referring to the mass shooting in Monterey Park.
The board ordered the county to halt any other such auctions of weapons being conducted by any county departments and called for a policy banning sales by the county of firearms and ammunition.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday had been scheduled to discuss plans for overhauling youth probation camps and detention facilities in preparation for an influx of detainees due to the state’s closure of its juvenile correctional facilities. But that discussion was delayed for two weeks, likely in anticipation of the vote to oust Gonzales.
Gonzales became head of the county Probation Department on Feb. 1, 2021, and previously served as chief probation officer for San Diego County.