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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Probation officers say new training standards put them in harms way

Contra Costa TimesAs counties work to put Gov. Jerry Brown's prison realignment plan into place, new concerns are being raised over the safety of probation officers who have to supervise inmates released under the AB 109 legislation.

The union that represents the probation officers in Los Angeles County sent a letter to Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers last week demanding that he halt a controversial training procedure for deputies hired specifically to do home visits with AB 109 inmates.

Under the new procedures, officers will train in the field for 30 days, doing announced, pre-scheduled home visits with AB 109 probationers under the watch of one of just 80 armed Special Enforcement Officers in the department. These probationers include those convicted of domestic violence, drug violations and registered sex offenders.

After the initial 30-day supervision, newly trained officers will then continue to do home visits without an armed presence.

This, say union officials, puts officers at risk.

"It's making everybody extremely uncomfortable," said Sue Cline, second vice-president of AFSCME Local 685, the union that represents LA County's probation officers. "Sure, some probation officers have good relationships with the people they're supervising, but not everyone. It's a huge public safety issue."

The union has pointed to the July shooting in which a probation officer was shot during the course of a home call visit and an accompanying LAPD officer was critically wounded.

In that case, the officer was backed up by armed law enforcement, which the union says indicates the dangers of the job and the even greater danger for solo, unarmed officers. continue reading...

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