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Four probation officers are placed on leave


Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey

Four more Los Angeles County probation officers were placed on leave following an investigation that detected additional cases of “youth-on-youth violence'' at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, the Probation Department.

Eight other officers were placed on leave in January following an incident that was caught on security video from the facility showing them standing by while multiple detainees punched and kicked another youth.

“While these incidents involve a small number of our staff, they violate our core values and undermine our ability to do our duty to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the rehabilitation of the youth placed in our care,'' Los Angeles County Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa said in a statement. “My commitment to dig deeper into potential wrongdoing, to take immediate action, and to publicly disclose my actions should make it clear that we will not tolerate anything that creates or contributes to a culture of violence in our juvenile facilities.''

No details about the latest “youth-on-youth violence'' at Los Padrinos were released.

The earlier instance that led to the suspension of eight probation officers occurred on Dec. 22, 2023. Surveillance video obtained earlier this month by the Los Angeles Times showed multiple officers standing by in a dining room at the hall while a series of detainees individually approached a 17-year-old boy and began punching and kicking him in what appeared to be coordinated attacks.

At least five probation officers can be seen in the room at the time. One occasionally steps in to break up the fights, but she appears to be smiling or laughing as she does so. By the end of the six-minute video, the teen victim walks to one of the tables and sits down with other youth.

The video was shown in a Sylmar courtroom earlier this month, when the 17-year-old victim's attorney asked that her client be released due to unsafe conditions at Los Padrinos, according to The Times.

The attorney, Sherrie Albin, said the teen suffered a broken nose in the attack, but was not taken for medical treatment by probation officers for several days after the beatings.

During the court hearing, Albin said one of the probation officers seen in the video “instigated'' the attacks, saying the officer told other youths the 17-year-old was a racist based on his gang affiliation and where he lived, The Times reported. According to the paper, all of the assailants were Black, and the 17-year-old is Latino.

The judge ultimately declined to release the teen, noting he has been transferred out of the unit at Los Padrinos where the attacks occurred, The Times reported.

Viera Rosa said the incidents have been referred to an outside law enforcement agency for investigation.

In February, the California Board of State and Community Corrections declared Los Padrinos and the Barry J. Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar suitable to house youths. The state board cited violations ranging from poor staffing levels to inadequate training, education programs, safety plans and disciplinary procedures.

The board reversed that finding earlier this month, determining that sufficient improvements had been made to address the various violations. Had the board not changed its mind, the county would have been forced to close the facilities and relocate the youth detainees.