Does LA County Probation Need a Watchdog Commission?

Will Los Angeles County’s large and still troubled probation department
get its own watchdog?

The unsettling concerns raised by the recent release of a new audit report that examined probation’s fiscal behavior would, all by itself, strongly suggest that more aggressive oversight is needed. (We wrote about the report’s findings here.)

And then there’s the fact that LA’s probation department has had five chiefs in the last ten years, the last three of which exited under various kinds of clouds.

With these and other issues in mind, LA County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl will introduce a motion at next Tuesday’s board meeting, which proposes the appointment of a working group to “evaluate the feasibility of establishing a permanent Probation Oversight Commission, similar to that recently established to oversee the Sheriff’s Department.”

If the motion is approved, the working group is to deliver its first report to the board, along with a plan for moving forward, in 90 days.

The exploratory group will also be instructed to make a recommendation to the board as to whether or not this watchdogging of probation should be separated into two separate oversight entities, one for the agency’s youth services, the other for the adult side—“given the different needs of the two populations.”

(On first bounce, WitnessLA leans toward the idea of two separate watchdogs.)

Probation already has a string of advisory bodies including an its own Probation Commission,, and several of its commissioners are very proactively reform-minded. Yet, as the motion notes, “there is no overall, formal assessment and reporting process.”

Hence the motion.

“lt is critical to evaluate the past actions and oversight of the Probation Department, assess ongoing needs and determine what changes might be adopted at this critical time of transformative reform in Los Angeles County,” said Sheila Kuehl in a statement about the motion.

Ridley-Thomas sounded equally firm about the need for a codified process for oversight leading to reform.

So will the motion pass? We hope so.

In any case….stay tuned..

Attractive bulldog photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


  • Of course they need a watchdog. They also need an accountant along with a baby sitter.

  • They also need an honest Chief. Amazing that Jerry Powers has the audacity to apply for the currently vacant San Diego Chief Probation Officer position. He probably promised his mistress Kym Renner he’d back door her in there too so she could continue to be his highly paid closest aide. She could use her great talent to oversee their HR and budget. That way another large probation agency can have an oversight committee.

  • The audit focused strictly on Chief Powers’ incompentent administration. An administration that you supported from the get go. His hand picked administrators destroyed the department, bringing employees down to their knees with unethical, bias, and baseless investigations. All to satisfy the BOS and the DOJ. You need to stop and step back, examine the toxic report writing that your spilling and be fair to these county employees. They are as human as the criminal gang members you support and protect. They are citizens of the County and deserve to be respective for their service to the community. Your report writing is not doing anyone any good and producing zero productive outcomes for anyone attempting to make the Probation Department a better place than what it was yesterday.

  • Management by group no matter what it is called cannot replace the advantages of a talented,skilled, administrator. Perhaps a suitable board could be utilized to better advantage.

  • Wait just one minute! I am totally and complete confused! I was under the impression that LA County Probation already had a so called watchdog ” The Office of Independent Reiew”. These allegedly high skilled and completely over paid attorneys cost the county tax payers an estimated $6500,000.00 a year. Well, thank god they have been with the department for the last 5 years without them things could have gone really bad! Wait a minute things did hit the fan under there close and mindful watch. I guess it would have been unethical for them to have reported to the BOS what was really going on. They would have had to have snitched on their only backer Chief (Casanova) Powers. Thanks again Jerry smooth move. Tell Kym we don’t miss her, well except for maybe one person.

  • Now that Renner works for L A County Department of Children and Family Services, hopefully her lack of skills and knowledge will be discovered before she creates major problems for this agency as well. Wonder if she got this job the same way she got the probation position (wink wink)?

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