Two members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called Friday for the resignation of county Probation Department chief Adolfo Gonzales, following a series of concerns about the agency’s operation and treatment of youth in the department’s care.
“I have lost confidence in Chief Gonzales’ ability to run our Probation Department,” board Chairwoman Janice Hahn said in a statement. “His ineffective leadership is hurting both the youth in our care and our staff who deserve better. I believe the best way forward is for Chief Gonzales to step down.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger echoed the concerns, saying the department is in “crisis and has consistently failed to correct increasingly unsafe conditions for youth and staff, chronic understaffing, and abysmal conditions for the youth under its supervision and care.”
“We are nowhere near the level of rehabilitation and reform that our board has envisioned,” Barger said in a statement. “We can’t continue to wait for change to happen — we need to drive change. That change must start from the top.”
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Probation Department. The county’s Probation Oversight Commission on Thursday, Feb. 23, voted 5-2 to call for Gonzales’ resignation. Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement Friday afternoon that fell short of calling for Gonzales’ resignation, but said recent concerns make her “question and doubt whether Chief Gonzales and Chief Deputy (Karen) Fletcher should continue leading this department.” The calls come one week after the Los Angeles Times reported the launch of a criminal investigation 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 during an argument that escalated into a physical altercation.
According to the Times, an internal disciplinary board moved in 2021 to fire a supervisor involved in the melee, but Gonzales overrode the panel and opted to continue the supervisor’s employment. [Read the Times article here.] The Probation Department was targeted last year in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of dozens 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 Central Juvenile Hall over concerns about conditions at the facility.
Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved an emergency motion after learning that the Probation Department was auctioning off surplus firearms to dealers. Supervisors Hahn and Hilda Solis wrote in their motion that such an auction “directly compromises the board’s efforts to address the gun violence epidemic, is antithetical to the county’s values and is highly insensitive in the wake of the recent tragedy in our community,” referring to the mass shooting in Monterey Park. The board ordered the county to halt any other such auctions of weapons being conducted by any county departments and called for a policy banning sales by the county of firearms and ammunition.
Gonzales has led the county Probation Department since Feb. 1, 2021, and previously served as chief probation officer for San Diego County.