Los Angeles Wants Probation Officers — But This Time, They Better Not Be Troublemakers

Oct 22, 2013
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

la countyScreen Shot 2013-10-21 at 3.17.21 PMThey’re looking for probation officers here in Los Angeles, but the county doesn’t want to repeat the experience of 2005 to 2008, when many hires didn’t get much of a background check and ended up with DUIs or even battery arrests.

Yes, those were probation officers themselves, getting “very limited to no background checks,” Don Meyer, a Los Angeles County Probation Department assistant chief, tells me. So, now, “we want to fill positions more than anybody but we want to do it the right way.”

During that mid-decade period, Meyer says, there was “tremendous pressure to hire.”

There’s some of that now, particularly as people are released from overcrowded jails and end up in probation. The department has about 6,600 employees and about 1,100 vacancies. About 470 of those are for “peace officer” slots that need to be filled. Of those, 300-320 people have been identified, but they haven’t necessarily even taken their jobs. That’s because of the domino effect: the county needs to first fill the jobs that will be vacated by candidates moving up internally before it will put the promoted or lateral-moving people into peace officer jobs.

The county is using Facebook and Twitter (such as this page) to recruit. Of course, it’s using its own career pages. It’s working on its LinkedIn page. It’s advertising in college newspapers, both two- and four-year colleges. It’s working with California State University/Los Angeles on getting its curriculum in line with county needs, and recruiting year-round from there.

Most people will fall out of the process at one point or another — something that as you saw at the outset of this post, may not be such as a bad thing. The assessments people will take vary by job, but generally they include an online work-style assessment (about 35 percent of a recent group of detention officers failed or didn’t complete it); an in-person state reading-writing-problem-solving exam (also, about 35 percent don’t show or don’t pass), and an interview.

And then there’s the background check part. That includes “neighborhood canvassing,” credit checks, and a polygraph test (“Warning!” It says toward the bottom of the county’s career site, telling them the polygraph is coming). The background check includes driver’s records, social media posts, and physical and psychological tests.

It’s quite a process, but Meyer says it’s quite an opportunity in that other law-enforcement jobs don’t have as much variety. “It’s a very unique opportunity to work with disenfranchised people,” he says. “A challenge, but very rewarding.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!