13 people vanish from Probation’s leadership. So will it help?

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Late on Friday afternoon, June 28, Los Angeles County Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa caused a great many heads to spin with his announcement that 13 people were no longer going to be working at the top tier of probation’s management.

Yet, together with the head spinning, there also appears to be a great deal of cautious optimism about what this news will mean for the future of the agency, in particular the youth side of probation.

“As you might be aware,” wrote Viera Rosa in a message to the agency’s rank and file, “today we announced an unprecedented restructuring of Probation that eliminates thirteen people from the Bureau Chief position.”

According to the chief, he thanked all of those affected and wished them the best “as they transition to other County positions or endeavors.”

(Note:  Those who were moved out of probation’s upper management were not terminated, which would have been all but impossible, but were moved laterally to another county agency. Yet, at least one of the 13 reportedly chose instead to retire.)

“Because staff restructurings may raise questions,” Viera Rosa wrote, “I also wanted to write [to] you directly to explain why I decided this major step was necessary and what it means for the rest of us, especially those working long hours every week in the field and juvenile operations.”

The changes, according to the chief, “will make us more accountable to each other while increasing transparency to the public.”

There was more to the message, but this was the heart of the statement from the chief.

Some familiar with the reasons for moving so many high-level people out of the department had other things to say.

“After decades of this bunch ruining” [probation’s] “culture, and forcing every chief out,” they are all “being sent out of the probation department,”  said one longtime youth justice expert in reference to several of the names on the list.

As for how the rank-and-file is taking the news, a source inside the department had this to say.

“They are stunned,” the source said. “But, also happy.”

Some of those working in the youth facilities specifically,” added the source, were “upset Eric Strong is still at probation.” 

The source was referring to a member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who is presently on loan to probation as that agency’s Chief Safety and Security Officer, a loan that has been controversial.

An earlier house cleaning

The exit of the 13 is not the first time this year that Chief Viera Rosa has done a major house cleaning when it comes to probation personnel.

On May 13, in a dramatic but very different move, the chief put 66 sworn officers on administrative leave, pending internal affairs investigations into allegations of official misconduct, including at the county’s youth facilities.

Back in May, Viera Rosa released an email explaining why so many department members had been put on leave. His reason for the dramatic move, he wrote, was “to regain public trust” in the nation’s largest probation agency, “as it roots out employees who cultivate or contribute to a culture of violence, drug use, neglect and sexual misconduct,” wrote the chief.

“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.”

According to Viera Rosa, May’s long list of IA investigations were being conducted by California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, who is handling the investigation while LA County Probation restructures its own Internal Affairs Unit (IAU), which has been operating under cloud for a series of reasons.

In 2021, WitnessLA reported on an earlier example of IAU’s dysfunction, which was demonstrated by its failure in 2019 to move on allegations of repeated sexual abuse of a teenage girl, with very painful consequences

When we investigated the story in 2021, WLA learned that, in addition to those who spoke to the victim, there was a cluster of probation bureau chiefs and deputy directors who were also made aware of the repeated and very disturbing allegations by the teenage girl.

Interestingly, some of those same people are prominent among the list of thirteen who on Friday were made to vanish from Los Angeles County Probation leadership, and from the department itself.

Cracking the code

So how and why did Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa remove the list of thirteen?

“Guillermo cracked the code,” said one probation veteran of the thirteen transfers. “He cracked the code!

When asked to explain, the source said that much of the reason a string of previous chiefs had been thwarted in their efforts to reform the department, is that they had no way of putting together their own teams, but “had to work with the upper management that was there.”

At some point in cycling through chief after chief, said the source, the members of the LA County Board of Supervisors realized “that no one’s going to succeed,” if a chief has no way do deal with this issue.

“Then Guillermo figured out that if he defunded certain positions, he could get rid of a lot of people who were obstructionist.”

And that’s what he did.

“He cracked the code.”

And so it was that Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa asked the county’s Chief Executive Officer to ask the board of supervisors to expedite the restructuring of the department he leads by eliminating funding for the 13 bureau chief positions, a change that became part of the county’s revised budget approved last week.

So what does this change at the top suggest for the future?

The chief works to answer that question in a brief public statement recently posted on the agency’s web site:

“This management restructuring represents a major step towards resizing and reorienting the Department under the County’s ‘Care First, Jails Last’ initiative to enact criminal justice reform,” Viera Rosa wrote.

“A streamlined organization will not only allow us to enact internal reforms more effectively, but it will also align us better with the new County Departments of Youth Development, and Justice Care and Opportunities,” he added in closing.

May it be so.

More as we know it.


  • The actual number is 17. 13 Bureau Chiefs and 4 Deputy Directors.

    This is my real email address.

  • Editor’s Note:

    Thanks, Mike. You’re quite right. But since when the chief sent out his announcement it had to do with the 13 Bureau Chiefs. As did my discussion with sources. So I didn’t over complicate it. But, I may add that information as a post script. Thanks again.


  • A huge slash if it’s two upper management levels. You have to wonder what the real plan is for this agency.

  • If the comments of friends with Probation are accurate, this may be the start of disbanding this agency. From the sounds of things, a la Villanueva, several of the people that are out should never have been promoted. Some rumors that Probation will be split into two agencies – one to handle juvenile, one to handle adult. I think the do gooders should take over the juvenile side and finish demolishing that – then LASD (absent Lt. Strong) can be brought in to straighten out the institutions, which should have been demolished and rebuilt years ago.

  • Disgusted: It is a woke election year purge. Multiple babies out with bathwater. God help those who were left behind. Those left in charge know not what they have done. But we’ll all expect WLA to keep us posted.

    Celeste: I am Memphis Mike, not Mike.

  • @Disgusted-

    LASD’s institutions (both physical and metaphorical) are failing as well. Why would the board trust LASD to fix anything at this point? The only thing constant with it tan & green right now is change… this means nothing gets done/accomplished… not seeing the current administration running any differently either. Status quo for those promoting to retire before the proverbial šħĩț hits the fan.

    Oversight and consent decrees only do so much. Time for someone to start gathering the ingredients for some humble pie.

  • Memphis Mike – Thank you – a shame for those that were perhaps professional and decent but from what people have shared, there were many people in these key positions that were unethical and unqualified. A lot still unknown but hard to fathom how this man from the State – that’s been with the County just briefly – is going to right the largest department of it’s kind in the world with little knowledge of the many systems that most agencies operate within and how they work together in the County. Will “his team” be outsiders as well? Blind leading the blind? The updates will be interesting.

  • Oh I forgot about the $3 BILLION settlement or judgments the county is facing for the sexual abuse that went on for years and years. Wonder who is next.

    I’m mean really, isn’t this just the next step toward eliminating all but the essential and mandated functions.

    Eliminating Probation is the goal – or holy grail for those who drink the DYD Kool-Aid. That’s your Youth Justice Reimagined now aligned as a woke unholy trinity JCOD and the DA.

    Those who dreamed up this insane plot have brought us eternally tormenting nightmares. You think LA is hell now?

  • I am so saddened to hear all the horror stories caused by lack of staffing and all the lawsuits pending

  • Tradition of Service – Always enjoy your posts and can’t argue with you a bit. Just thinking back to when things were better I guess.

    Interesting that Probation staff appear silent – perhaps the further chaos coming will be better than their current reality? Tough either way. Feel for them.

  • I hear that the probation chief is hiring his peeps from San Bernardino without posting positions for others in the department to interview. This nepotism is ethically wrong!

  • Mozzetta,

    You are right. And those coming over from San Berdu will be making around $100000 per more in LA County PLUS LA county is paying all of the imports’ safety retirement. This is all Kim Epps’s doing.

    There will be another 6 Deputy Directors coming in to replace the 4 displaced ones who have been dispersed to other county departments.

    Reforms you say? This will turn back the clock 50 years.

    Remember, the annual BSCC is right around the corner. Anyone willing to lay odds on a finding of unsuitably? How about that Probation is put into receivership? How about suspension of the labor contracts? Ask yourselves: who is really behind this and why?

    How safe do you feel?

  • Memphis Mike McGee – Are all those prob execs already gone? I wonder how many if any, have filed lawsuits already…

    The Board just never learns. The only people that will benefit from this are the attorneys.

  • All gone and transferred to other county departments. Adios. I don’t know if they are taking legal action. That’s up to them. I think the BCs may have civil service protections but not the DDs. But this is far from over.

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