Office of Inspector General Releases OC Spray Report Legislative Visits Focus on Loss of Title IV-E Funds and Challenger Repurposing Probation’s Role in Preventing Human Trafficking Recognized During Human Trafficking Awareness Month The Los Angeles County Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its report on staff use of OC Spray at juvenile camps and halls in February. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors, which mandated Probation develop a plan to eliminate use of OC spray the same month, requested the report after the Department discovered several inci- dents of apparent excessive use of force involving OC spray during a review of incidents. While virtually all the 600 physical interventions reviewed were within pol- icy, the Department has been focused on reducing violence in its facilities and ensuring protocols are always followed. “While the overwhelming majority of incidents were within policy, even a sin- gle case of abuse of the youth in our care is one too many and is absolutely not in alignment with our collective val- ues,” expressed Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald. “As a department, we are committed to demonstrate that the actions of a few staff do not represent the youth advocates who work with our clients and their families and that these In 2011, L.A. County was identified as a major hub for the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Since then with support and guidance from the Board of Supervisors, the L.A. County Probation Department has paved the way for innovative and collaborative efforts to identify and provide services and support for children who are victims of sex trafficking. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has formally recognized January as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In 2019, The Board recognized Oree Freeman for her decade-long advocacy and work in helping survivors of human trafficking. Oree Freeman, a former victim of sex trafficking in L.A. County, knows all too well about commercial sexual exploitation. While still under Probation supervision, Oree created and presented “In Her Heels,” an educational presentation about the sex industry and how children become victims of a multi-billion-dollar black market that often takes place in plain sight. Oree educated foster care staff with her in-depth descriptions of how sex trafficking operates and how victims are selected, groomed and forced to work in dangerous conditions. In 2014, the L.A. County First-Responder Protocol revolutionized the way law enforcement and social services personnel approached and treated victims of sex-trafficking. Probation’s CSEC Unit Director Michelle Guymon was central to actively developing training programs that address the issue of sex trafficking and assist victims with getting out of “the life.” “Perhaps the most profound thing that we have done is to change the way we refer to these youth,” explains Guymon. “We no longer call them prostitutes and treat them like criminals. They are, in fact, victims, and since they are victims, they need to be given access to services and treatment to help them heal and become whole again. Probation staff are trained to ask the right questions to help identify which kids in our custody are considered CSEC and how to best serve this growing population.” Between August 2014 and 2018, Probation has rescued over 361 girls and boys from the clutches of sex trafficking. In that four-year period, data collected revealed that the average age of a CSEC victim was 15, with the youngest being 11. Survivors willing to speak about their experiences have contributed to a wave of awareness that ultimately led to significant reform. Ms. Freeman serves as a CSEC advocate and mentor helping to lead the movement that has resulted in law enforcement leaders changing their perceptions of sex- crime victims. “Thinking back to when I first started at 12 years old and to where I am now is a full circle. I couldn’t have done that without the people who are here,” Oree Freeman said, thanking members of Probation. “We have a lot more work left to do. I can’t thank Probation and Children’s Services enough for giving me hope when I had none, for giving me a new chance on life by being there consistently.” “We no longer call them prostitutes and treat them like criminals. They are, in fact, victims...” – Michelle Guymon L.A. County Probation Director The loss of $29 million in Federal revenue that currently supports programs and services for youth in out-of-home care was a major point of discussion at recent legislative events. Chief Terri McDonald and other key staff have been working with legislators to prevent the ending of the Title IV-E Waiver on September 30, 2019. The loss of the Waiver will have a tremendous impact on L.A. County, which advocates for a short-term extension of the Waiver to sustain vital staffing and services for youth at risk of entering out-of-home care. Chief McDonald joined the Board of Supervisors and Brandon Nichols from the Department of Children and Family Services to engage members of the U.S. Congress regarding an extension on two separate visits to Washington D.C. Probation has also hosted Congressional staffers on several occasions to highlight the critical need for the extension. In partnership with Supervisor Barger’s office, Probation has started planning for the costly yet important repurposing of Challenger Memorial Youth Center into a residential career training center. Chief McDonald has traveled to Sacramento on several occasions to meet with members of State government to lobby for additional funding for statewide Probation departments repurpose empty juvenile facilities. types of unacceptable actions do not occur on our watch.” The OIG report noted that most staff they spoke with expressed a pas- sion for their work and a determination to positively affect the lives of youth. It also noted that some of the staff have concerns about safety, training, policy issues and the need for improved com- munication. Probation keenly focuses on these areas. The report affirms the importance of relationships and rapport between Probation staff and the youth in their charge, noting that many Probation staff have never had to resort to using OC spray because of their ability to effectively and respectfully communi- cate with youth instead of using physical interventions. The report laid out sev- eral recommendations, many of which the Department had already begun to examine and develop. The report noted reforms including reducing violence in Probation’s facilities by increasing youth programming, increasing staff training, increasing supervision, updat- ing policies and expanding reviews of critical incidents. “Just as we have an expectation of staff professionalism and zero tolerance for client abuse, staff safety is also fun- damental,” Chief McDonald informed staff. “The physical assault of staff is unacceptable, especially when the intent of the assault is clear. We remain committed to giving staff all the tools needed to be safe and effective.” In response to the report and in the interest of community transparency, Probation now publishes quarterly raw data on OC spray usage and youth-on- youth and youth-on-staff violence on its website at The report affirms the importance of relationships and rapport between Probation staff and the youth in their charge... The Probation Department The Probation Department JUVENILE SERVICES JUVENILE SERVICES 4 5