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Federal Probe Of County Probation Department Sought By Mark Ridley-Thomas

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Wednesday called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the county Department of Probation, which was recently scandalized by revelations that some of its employees used county issued credit cards to buy personal items such as flat-screen televisions.

" ... Some of the worst offenders the department must handle are, regrettably, on its staff," the supervisor wrote Wednesday in a piece for the Huffington Post.

Ridley-Thomas compared the department to the pre-consent-decree Los Angeles Police Department, which was rocked by the late-'90s Rampart Scandal that saw a gang member shot, drugs stolen from the department, and allegations of racial bias.

"Probation officers who should have been fired for misconduct remain on duty due to botched investigations," the supervisor writes. " ... The department also can't fully account for $79 million in its budget ... The depth of corruption and incompetence found so far has already surpassed what anyone dreamed ... "

If it investigates, the Department of Justice could ultimately sue the county and essentially force it into a consent decree that would require a judge's oversight and deep reform, or it could come to a less-stringent "memorandum of understanding" that would also lead to a clean-up of probation.

"The County has been trying for years to right this troubled department," Ridley-Thomas writes. "Enough time has passed, without enough progress, that it's to give the department's leaders new, more powerful tools to do their job. For too long, the department has been unable to stop lawless behavior."


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