By: Alex Villanueva
It’s my understanding the board of supervisors recently voted to restrict and/or eliminate the use of pepper spray in juvenile detention facilities. Too bad they can’t vote to restrict the use of violence by juvenile detainees against staff, which is currently a daily event. It’s no small wonder probation officers have to be bribed to show up to work as call-ins and refusals to work have reached crisis levels but are being concealed by the probation department leadership and the BOS.
There was an issue for sure of some staff members overusing OC spray, poor documentation of the use of force incidents, and a lack of a clear policy for its use. That is a leadership issue that was never addressed, and it falls squarely on the BOS and their appointed department head. The knee-jerk reaction of removing OC spray in its entirety is going to result in more force, not less, and will involve more serious injuries than the discomfort of OC spray. It will also encourage the most violent of detainees to green-light assaults on staff and further exacerbate the exodus of probation department employees.
There is no substitute for competent leadership, sound use-of-force policies that are enforced, and relevant training for line staff.
Alex Villanueva was the 33rd Sheriff of Los Angeles County