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Video of LA County probation officers pinning a boy fuels call for chief’s removal

A citizens’ commission overseeing problems in Los Angeles County’s Probation Department called for resignation of department Chief Adolfo Gonzales on Thursday, Feb. 23, after watching a video in which probation officers pinned a 17-year-old boy facedown on a bed and bent his legs while he cried for his mother.

Following the incident in 2020 at Camp Kilpatrick, one of the officers involved, Officer Oscar Cross, was recommended for termination after an internal review in 2021. But Chief Gonzales overruled the  recommendation, saying he wanted to give the officer a second chance, according to the commission.

Adolfo Gonzales is Los Angeles County’s Probation Chief. A citizens’ oversight commission called for his removal from the top post on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (Courtesy photo)

The Probation Oversight Commission disagreed with that decision, voting 5-2 to recommend that Chief Gonzales be fired.

After watching the video, Commissioner Milinda Kakani was visibly shaken. “I am horrified and disgusted and heartbroken after the subsequent times I’ve watched this video,” she said. “It is important to acknowledge this is child abuse.”

“His decision to override the recommendation to terminate this one employee was wrong,” said Commissioner Sean Garcia-Leys during the Thursday meeting. However, he voted “no,” saying he doubted the department would improve with an interim chief.

Removing Gonzales takes a majority vote of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. On Friday, two supervisors released statements agreeing with the commission’s recommendation, nearly sealing the fate of Gonzales. No date has been set for a vote.

Fourth District Supervisor and Board Chair Janice Hahn wrote that she agrees with the recommendation: “I have lost confidence in Chief Gonzales’s ability to run our Probation Department. His ineffective leadership is hurting both the youth in our care and our staff who deserve better. I believe the best way forward is for Chief Gonzales to step down.”

Likewise, Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger agreed that Gonzales should be fired. In a statement released Friday, Barger said the Probation Department has repeatedly failed to fix what she called “unsafe conditions for youth and staff.”

“We are nowhere near the level of rehabilitation and reform that our Board has envisioned,” she said. “We can’t continue to wait for change to happen – we need to drive change. That change must start from the top. I am calling for Chief Adolfo Gonzales to resign from the Probation Department’s top post immediately.”

The Probation Oversight Commission is a civilian oversight body that advises the Probation Department and the Board of Supervisors, while monitoring the department’s progress on reform. The commission reviews departmental policies, procedures, and practices and conducts inspections with the aim of ensuring incarcerated youth are not harmed by officers or mistreated in any way.

The commission has held hearings on a string of incidents inside the county’s juvenile halls, from overuse of pepper spray to inadequate facilities. A recent report found that the Probation Department did not provide video footage to corroborate use of force.

Related links

Los Angeles County’s disgraceful probation department needs further scrutiny
LA County Probation set to move youths from troubled Nidorf Hall to Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu
LA County juvenile halls failing to provide camera footage, timely use-of-force reports, says Inspector General
Court will oversee reforms to L.A. County juvenile halls plagued with abuse, unsafe conditions, state A.G. says
Pepper-spray use surges in L.A. County juvenile justice system, report says

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