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Home / News / Crime / Teen beating video spurs call for probation internal affairs overhaul

Teen beating video spurs call for probation internal affairs overhaul

by Joe Taglieri
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A video showing the coordinated beating of a teen at a juvenile hall prompted Los Angeles County’s Probation Department chief Friday to call for a restructuring of the agency’s internal affairs procedures.

Recently released video shows Probation Department officers standing idle while a 17-year-old was beaten by a group of other detainees at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey in December. That prompted Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa in January to place eight probation officers on leave.

“Because I was not satisfied with how this was reported internally, I have secured authority from the Board of Supervisors to restructure and professionalize Internal Affairs,” Viera Rosa said in a statement. “This will make sure we conduct fair, thorough — and prompt — investigations in those rare cases where our personnel fall short of our core values.

“We will not tolerate misconduct like that depicted in the video, nor will we tolerate a lack of urgent response, if and when these incidents happen.”

The probation chief also touted his response to the beating incident, which officials described as “significant” when the severe assault became publicly known in January.

“Now that the video has been released in the media, it should be abundantly clear why I felt compelled to take swift action once this incident was brought to my attention,” Viera Rosa said. “I not only ordered those involved to be relieved of duty pending an investigation, I referred the investigation to an external law enforcement agency to ensure independence.”

The Los Angeles Times made the video public Friday. It shows several probation officers doing nothing to stop the repeated punching and kicking of the teen in what appear to be coordinated attacks.

Surveillance video recorded Dec. 22 shows several detainees eating at tables as one teen is standing in the far end of the room. Several other detainees enter the room and individually each punches and kicks the teen, causing him to fall to the ground twice.

The video shows as many as six probation officers in the room during the assaults. One officer, who at times appears to be smiling or laughing, languidly steps in to break up the fights. At the end of the six-minute video, the teen who was repeatedly assaulted walks to one of the tables and sits down with other detainees.

In January the officers were suspended for allowing the beating to take place and failing to intervene, though Viera Rosa did not comment on whether or not the suspended officers were back on duty.

The Times reported that the teen’s family has filed a legal action against the county and the video was shown in a Sylmar courtroom Thursday, when attorney Sherrie Albin, the 17-year-old victim’s public defender, requested her client’s release from Los Padrinos due to unsafe conditions.

Albin said the teen suffered a broken nose in the attack, but was not taken for medical treatment by probation officers for several days after the beatings.

She also said a probation officer who appears in the video “instigated” the assaults by telling other youth detainees the teen was a racist based on his gang affiliation and where he lived, according to the Times. All of the assailants were Black, and the beating victim is Latino.

The teen’s family has filed a legal action against the county, according to the newspaper.

The teen is awaiting trial for a robbery and shooting that left a victim wheelchair-bound for months, according to prosecutors.

The judge in the case declined to release the beating victim from Los Padrinos, noting that he has been transferred out of the unit where the fight occurred, the Times reported.

The beating video’s release comes a day after the California Board of State and Community Corrections reversed a February ruling and found that Los Padrinos and the Barry J. Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar were suitable to house youth detainees. Regulators previously found Los Padrinos to be noncompliant in staffing levels, fire safety plans, safety checks, room confinement procedures, use-of-force training, searches, education programs, access to programs and recreation and disciplinary procedures.

Both facilities would have been forced to close next week if the board upheld the “unsuitable” designation.

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