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Should Some L.A. Probation Officers Be Put On Probation?

The new head of the Los Angeles County Probation Department this week vowed to investigate allegations that employees had used government-issued credit cards to buy what appeared to be personal items, including flat-screen TVs, DVD players, Sony PlayStations video games, and barbecues. The revelations were made by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. In a statement distributed to the media, Donald L. Blevins, chief probation officer, responded forcefully, indicating that he's ready to clean house:

Recently, a number of troubling allegations have come to light, pointing to a Department that lacks accountability, has substandard management practices, lacks internal control, and operational oversight.

Let me just acknowledge up front that during the first 2 months of my tenure as Chief, I have found most of these allegations to be true.

It is my responsibility to investigate the allegations of fraudulent activities that are said to be taking place and I assure you, those who have violated my trust, will be punished and/or removed from this Department. I have a zero-tolerance for misbehavior within my organization. The standard level that I hold every single employee within this Department is that of professionalism and high personal integrity. If this is too much for any employee to handle, then perhaps they made a poor career choice. These are sworn officers and they must act accordingly.

In his own statement, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said he was fed up with the department's misdeeds:

We are still suffering the consequences of a breakdown in departmental discipline. Problem employees remain in the Department because they were not dismissed when they should have been and the situation has become intolerable.

This week we acknowledged the many accomplishments and good work of many probation officers. But problem employees must be put on notice - we have had enough. The leadership of the Department has been replaced and the new Department head knows he must move swiftly and forcefully to turn the Department around. The time for corrective action is now.

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