8 LA probation staff removed from duty for overseeing “fight clubs,” as probation chief outsources internal affairs investigations

Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall's updated entrance, photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Probation
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Tuesday, January 9, 2024, LA County Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa issued a statement praising the members of the county’s Board of Supervisors who, at his request, passed a motion introduced by Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, in order to examine the “feasibility” of outsourcing probation’s internal affairs investigations of staff members.

A day later, on Wednesday, January 10, Viera Rosa placed the eight peace officers on “ordered absence,” until further notice.

“Sharing this information publicly is an important step forward in my commitment to bring new leadership, transparency, and accountability to the Probation Department,” said Chief Viera Rosa. 

He and his command staff, said the chief, were “committed identifying and removing those who do not align with our core values and standards to eliminate the negative influences within our organization.”

The department he leads “continues to work on reforms needed to align more closely with the rehabilitation and reintegration goals of the LA County Board of Supervisors…” the chief wrote in an email. “We continue to seek out new ways” to increase the department’s “transparency and accountability.”

High on the list of such reforms, according to Viera Rosa, “is the thorough and impartial investigation” of allegations of employee wrongdoing.

To accomplish that goal, the chief described the need for the “unprecedented action” of hiring an “independent entity” to conduct the department’s “sensitive and important investigations.”

Good idea.

WitnessLA’s sources inside the department tell us that the”independent entity,” may eventually be made up of some of the people that the chief previously worked with during his time at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), yet we have been unable to confirm this with department officials.

For now, it is our understanding that probation is outsourcing to the already drastically y over-stretched LA County Sheriff’s Department.

Gladiator Fights

This brings us back to the question of why eight probation staff members have been removed from duty. It appears that the employees were setting up “gladiator fights,” between the young people in the county’s care in certain units of Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall.

The alleged fights reportedly came about after a new young man was transferred into one of the units where the brawls took place. The newcomer was believed to be a member of a rival street gang that didn’t “get along,” with the gang or gangs with which the existing youth residents were associated.

In order to address the potential conflict, the staff members allegedly set up “gladiator fights,” between some of the youth, a practice that existed a decade or two ago at some of LA County’s youth facilities, and also at the now-shuttered youth prisons that were run by the state of California.

According to probation sources, the existence of these recent gladiator fights were discovered when one of the injured young men involved found himself scheduled for a court date shortly after the brawls took place. At court, the presiding judge asked about the provenance of the highly noticeable cuts and swelling on the young man’s face.  So, the kid told his honor how he got the injuries.

“It’s a fight club,” is the way in which one probation source described the matter to WLA.

Meanwhile, it appears that both Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, and Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall are still dealing with a flood of narcotics—prominently including fentanyl—that regularly make their way into Barry J. and LP, as the two facilities are known.

The result has been an ongoing series of overdoses, most requiring the administration of Narcan, often multiple doses of the naloxone nasal spray, to bring the drug-taking youths back from, well, death.

The most recent incidents included one just before Christmas, on December 24th, when a young man at Barry J. Nidorf overdosed to the point that the staff member who came to his rescue reportedly found it necessary to administer 4 containers of Narcan, before transporting the youth to the hospital.

Then on January 8, at LP, another kid overdosed, was dosed with Narcan, then also taken to the hospital, where he remained until at least Wednesday, January 10.

Four days before the Monday overdose, on Friday January 5th, also at Los Padrinos, one of the department’s K9 dogs alerted to a staff locker, which had a lock on it. When asked, probation higher-ups reportedly gave the okay to break the lock.

Inside the locker, we are told by staff members that investigators found ten or so “marijuana vape pens,” which are considered contraband.

Part of the cause of the problems at Los Padrinos and Barry J, according to probation sources is the fact that in October of 2023, three of probation’s in-house investigators were removed from duty and sent home on an “ordered absence.” for reasons that are still unclear.  

This was the team who appear to have made dramatic and measurable progress in locating  the sources of the fentanyl that had been showing up in significant amounts since the beginning of the year in Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall—and later at Los Padrinos, resulting in months of overdoses, one resulting in the fatal overdose of 18-year-old Bryan Diaz, who was discovered in his cell, dead of a fentanyl overdose early in the morning of Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Just prior to their removal from duty, the team reported to internal affairs that they’d learned from one of the prolific youth dealers inside Barry J. Nidorf that, for two years, he’d been getting his drugs from a staff member and a teacher both of whom reportedly, as of this writing, still work at Barry J.

To date, the team of investigators has yet to be returned to duty.  But now the threesome have a civil rights attorney and have become whistleblowers.

(For more on the whistleblower’s case, see WLA’s story here.)

In the meantime, the job of getting drugs out of LA County Probation’s deeply troubled youth facilities has fallen to newly-appointed Chief Safety and Security Officer, Eric Strong, of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Given the ongoing incidents of overdoses, along with the alleged gladiator fights, Officer Strong’s job is a challenging one.

More as we know it.


  • What about the current bureau chief who was an original OG of the fight clubs at Camp Onizuka in the late 1990s early 2000s and upon investigation had it all covered up and given fast track to current position. Add to this the BOS was made aware of this and like all probation policies that knowingly weakened department over past 20 years ignored insight of the problems that exist today policies would create. 22 years ago staffing at the VAP camp program was 5 staff to 119 minors. The problems that occur today were less than 10%. What are staffing numbers today? Why ten times the problems and expenses? Because from my perspective the powers that be have no interest in making LA County safer and providing a realistic chance at rehabilitation of troubled minors.

  • Tsk tsk Celeste,

    An “independent entity” to investigate Probation employees…Good idea? Maybe. Contracting with LA County Sheriff’s Department Internal Affairs division? Bad, Bad idea. They are the same who refuse to investigate deputy gangs and cover up for deputies who stalk, harass and commit domestic violence, and do sloppy investigations into officer involved shootings and excessive force cases. Bad idea. The BOS should expand the OIG to create an investigative branch.
    Celeste, LA County is the honey pot for Little Memo’s CDCR friends. Look into all the consultants he hired and you’ll see they’re mostly his cronies. The others are retired Sheriff deputies (all buddies of corrupt Ray Leyva and Alex Villanueva). Request to see their contracts – Little Memo made sure they would collect a fat check, with minimum work, and never have to step a foot on Los Angeles County! They do not care about our communities and don’t pay local taxes or contribute to our economy.
    Celeste, when have you EVER reported that the Probation Department has made “dramatic measurable progress” in anything?! NEVER! Come on, Celeste, you’ve been duped. The Probation Department would’ve had a press conference if that were true. The BOS and the POC would have been all over it. So that “dream team” you so desperately want to believe, most likely did something criminal so they had to get a lawyer. Stop praising them without any facts.
    Lastly, Eric Strong is a joke and a dummy. That’s ridiculous he’s over juvenile hall security! Maybe he’s the one who started the fight clubs! since he’s stupid enough to publicly fight in the stands on a nationally televised football game while being under contract with LA County. Isn’t that grounds for removal? Oh, but the BOS owed him for trying to topple Villanueva so they are lining his pockets. It’s another example of the BOS wasting our tax dollars.
    To the Board of Supervisors: LA County is ready for another Chief Probation Officer. This time, they need to get over themselves and their prejudices and stop looking outside LA County. NEXT!

  • like most other law enforcement agency’s, a couple of bad seeds will always exist among the many “good seeds”. it is a department problem no doubt that needs immediate attention but let’s not overlook the incredible job the “good line duty officers” have been doing without many resources to correct bad behavior by our fine young juvenile delinquents.

    in other words, it is still off the hook!
    deinquents continue to just run amok. thank you BOS & admin

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