LA County Probation Department Desperate To Hire - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

LA County Probation Department Desperate To Hire

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"We want to hire you right now!" How often do you hear that these days? Not very I'm guessing. But that's precisely the situation with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, which is in desperate need of officers and other staff. In fact, the department is in such dire straits that it has launched an online campaign to entice people to apply for open positions.

Why, you might ask, is the agency having such a hard time hiring? Well it seems much of the problem has to do with stricter rules now in place which disqualify many of the applicants. The policy, implemented over the last year, automatically rules out people convicted of certain crimes. Still others are required to submit to polygraph tests and extensive background checks.

The application requirements are apparently so stringent, only about ten to twenty percent of applicants make it through the screening process. The crunch comes at a time when the department is hurting badly for probation officers and other workers to handle an influx of state prison inmates.

Probation Chief Jerry Powers put the restrictive hiring process in place to address complaints of employee misconduct and abuses primarily in the county's 20 juvenile offender camps and halls. The county set aside money to hire 470 additional people to handle the workload but, right now, about a third of those positions remain unfilled.

Meanwhile, the union representing the probation officers calls Powers' screening process unreasonable. Previously, job candidates were banned if they had been convicted of a violent offense in the last seven years or a property crime in the last five. Under Powers' new rules, anyone who has ever been convicted of such crimes is automatically ineligible to work for the department.  And Powers seems disinclined to budge on the issue.

About $10 million earmarked for additional probation department hiring went unused last year and was redirected instead to a fund that will pay to house additional county jail inmates. The agency is going to have to come up with a solution quickly. Supervising the increasing number of inmates being released from prison is critically important stuff and a matter of great public safety. There seems to be no disagreement that probation officers, already struggling with staggering caseloads, are in serious need of some relief.

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