After resisting calls for his resignation, a Los Angeles County Probation Department chief once employed by San Diego County was fired this week.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors ended Adolfo Gonzales’ tenure with the agency Tuesday, citing, as Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement, “juvenile halls in crisis” and “at risk of being shut down.”
“(The) void in leadership starting from the top has allowed this situation to fester,” Hahn continued. “Our board’s decision to terminate Chief Gonzales is only the first step of a long road to fixing our juvenile halls and supporting the youth in our care and the staff who work with them.”
Gonzales could not be reached for comment. Gonzales became head of the county Probation Department on Feb. 1, 2021, after previously serving as chief probation officer for San Diego County.
Hahn and Supervisor Kathryn Barger had called on Gonzales to resign his position, following a 5-2 vote March 2 by the county’s Probation Oversight Commission also calling for him to step down.
Gonzales, however, didn’t budge, culminating in the board’s unanimous vote to remove him from the post.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said “there is a serious culture issue and lack of leadership within the department.”
“To that end, in the county’s next search for a new Probation Department chief, we need someone who can take initiative and has the courage to make the necessary changes needed for our youth and adults in Probation’s supervision,” she added.
The calls for Gonzales’ removal followed a Los Angeles Times report about a criminal investigation being conducted by the District Attorney’s Office into the actions of several probation officers caught on video piling on top of a teenager at a juvenile probation camp in 2020.
According to the Times, an internal disciplinary board moved in 2021 to fire a supervisor involved in the melee, but Gonzales overrode the panel.
It was the latest black eye for the agency.
The department was targeted last year in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of hundreds of girls by agency staff dating back to 1985. The county’s juvenile lockups have also been criticized in recent years by state corrections officials for being unsuitable to house offenders.
Late last year, the department abruptly moved all detainees out of the county’s Central Juvenile Hall over concerns about conditions there.
Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved an emergency motion after learning that the Probation Department was auctioning off surplus firearms to dealers. The board ordered the county to halt any other such auctions being conducted by county departments and called for a policy banning sales by the county of firearms and ammunition.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday had been scheduled to discuss plans for overhauling youth probation camps and detention facilities in preparation for an influx of detainees due to the state’s closure of its juvenile correctional facilities. But that discussion was delayed for two weeks, likely in anticipation of the vote to oust Gonzales.
– City News Service