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Civics & Democracy

More Turmoil At LA Probation Department: Interim Chief Resigns

A probation officer walks through a dormitory at Camp Afflerbaugh with juveniles sitting with their backs towards the camera wearing white t-shirts.
There's been another change in leadership at the beleaguered L.A. County Probation Department.
(Grant Slater / LAist)
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Karen Fletcher, the interim chief of the troubled Los Angeles County Probation Department who was elevated to the position less than two months ago when the Board of Supervisors fired her predecessor, has resigned.

Fletcher told LAist she submitted her letter of resignation on Monday, and said May 19 is her last day on the job. She declined to discuss her reasons beyond saying, "It's a general decision to retire. I have been in the field for 34 years."

Fletcher had been the agency's number two official when the supervisors fired Chief Adolfo Gonzalez in March. The move came a few days after the civilian Probation Oversight Commission had called on Gonzalez and Fletcher to resign.

Gonzalez's firing and Fletcher’s resignation add to the turmoil at an agency in crisis. Probation has come under intense criticism for its failure to sufficiently improve conditions at the county’s juvenile detention facilities.

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The county’s juvenile detention facilities have been troubled for years, with incidents ranging from violence and unrest to the pepper-spraying of youths; earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported that a probation officer was stabbed in the neck at the Sylmar facility.

The state board that oversees those facilities is deciding whether L.A. County’s juvenile halls can stay open.

The state Attorney General’s office is asking a judge to force the county to speed up its efforts to correct the “illegal and unsafe conditions of confinement” at the county’s two juvenile halls.

Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a motion last month to enforce provisions of a 2021 stipulated judgment against the county. He said L.A. is not living up to its legal obligation to provide enough staffing so youths can be enrolled in and taken to school; taken to important medical appointments; and have sufficient time outdoors for recreation and exercise.

"Due in part to a staffing crisis plaguing the juvenile halls, the county has not just failed to make forward progress towards compliance with the judgment: It has actually regressed away from complying with the most basic and fundamental provisions that ensure youth and staff safety and well-being," Bonta’s office said in a statement.

The attorney general’s office cited recent reports of fentanyl use in facilities, requiring the use of Narcan on two youths, and general negligence.

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