The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to look into creating a Probation Oversight Commission to monitor – and help reform – the world’s largest Probation Department.
Various entities already evaluate Probation, which watches over tens of thousands of adult and juvenile probationers, both in and out of custody, as well as state parolees. None of those entities, however, provides comprehensive oversight of the entire system.
Acting on a motion by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board created a working group to determine whether Probation needs an oversight commission similar to that recently established for the Sheriff’s Department.
“This is a critical moment for criminal justice reform in Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.
“I co-authored this motion to endorse the idea of transformation,” he added. “A Probation Oversight Commission can play a vital role in promoting transparency, increasing accountability, and validating reform.”
Supervisor Kuehl said, “This motion is an essential next step in ensuring that the County’s Probation Department is willing and able to provide services needed to support the new and innovative criminal justice policies being adopted at the County and state levels.”
Testifying before the Supervisors, Interim Chief Probation Officer Cal Remington said, “The Probation Department is making a commitment to this Board and the public that we will become more transparent, and this (motion) is one way to do that. I’m looking forward to this period of study.”
Probation union AFSCME Local 685 First Vice President Hans Liang also expressed support for the motion.
“It’s no secret our department has been in chaos far too long,” he told the Board. “Change is needed, and we believe you’re on the right track.”
Denise Herz, Ph.D., of the Cal State LA School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, noted the Probation Oversight Commission would be the first of its kind and added, “I think L.A. can, in fact, be the model for the United States.”
Eastlake Juvenile Hall chaplain Cheryl Bonacci believes it “will go a long way in strengthening relations between the Probation Department and the community it serves.”