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‘Real progress’ at L.A. County's probation agency, reviewer says

Los Angeles County's troubled probation agency is making "real progress" in improving its internal investigations, according to a report released Monday.

Rob Miller, who monitors the Probation Department for the county's Office of Independent Review, said investigations are often delayed but nonetheless improving. There are many ongoing inquiries at juvenile camps and halls, and frequent issues surrounding classroom teachers, said the office's report issued Monday. 

But the office, which acts as a watchdog for the county Board of Supervisors on county law enforcement agencies, largely backed up the conclusions of the department's own probes into accusations of wrongdoing. For example, Miller agreed with the Probation Department's conclusion that it could not substantiate allegations that probation staff supported the staging of fights. The accusation arose after a video appeared on the Internet showing minors fighting inside a classroom.

The independent review agency also agreed with the probation agency's substantiation of allegations that a teacher sold cigarettes and lighters at a juvenile camp, that a teacher impulsively pushed a minor to the floor to prevent the juvenile from leaving a classroom and that a deputy probation officer threw a burrito at a minor's head.

The report also noted that county employees at times have refused to cooperate with investigators. In the case involving the teacher who allegedly pushed a minor to the floor, the teacher refused to be interviewed and was not hired the next school year, the report said.

Miller urged the probation department to establish procedures for dealing with teachers who refuse to speak with investigators.

The report also discussed substandard investigation reports. It urged the probation department to ensure that names are spelled consistently and correctly in investigative reports, to interview all relevant witnesses and to establish an immediate, mandatory reporting policy when minors are injured.

Miller praised probation agency officials for working to improve their investigations. "They have been genuinely cooperative," Miller said.

The quarterly report released Monday was the first issued by the Office of Independent Review. The Board of Supervisors ordered the office to begin reviewing the probation department amid allegations of excessive force and misconduct.

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--- Rong-Gong Lin II

 
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