Compliance checks ‘needlessly intimidating and expensive?’

Jun 19th, 2012 | By | Category: Parole, Parole Reform, Realignment, Spotlight

Critics say Los Angeles’ police officers and deputy sheriffs are heavy-handed on routine parolee ‘compliance checks.’

Realignment plan for California prisons causing new friction

Higher volume of ‘compliance checks’ done by law enforcement on felons released in L.A. County means that probation officers often aren’t available to go along.
Jason Song, Los Angeles Times
…city and county efforts to keep tabs on nearly 6,000 felons released in L.A. County…prompted confusion and anger, jockeying among agencies for millions in public money and warnings that public safety employees are facing new dangers.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and LAPD officers have expanded duties for periodic “compliance checks” on the reassigned former inmates, who served time for nonviolent crimes. The volume of checks means that probation officers, who may already know the ex-convicts and be better positioned to defuse situations that can become confrontational, often aren’t available to go along…

Law enforcement officials say officers may not know what they are walking into and that teams help ensure safety. Moreover, under the terms of their release, parolees and probationers generally are subject to warrantless searches at any time, they note.

But critics, including some elected officials, argue that in some cases, the tactics being used are needlessly intimidating and expensive.

“It really erodes trust when four cars and several officers pull up,” said Mark Faucette, vice president of the Amity Foundation, which runs a residential treatment facility near USC…

The compliance checks top a growing list of controversies quietly brewing as realignment takes hold in communities across California…(Full text at Los Angeles Times)

While the compliance checks described in the excerpted article are a valid ‘tool’ for dealing with paroled offenders, clearly, there are more cost effective methods of keeping tabs on them. In any case, the offender’s residence is confirmed and compliance ensured–That’s the lion’s share of what parole supervision is about. However, the Devil’s in the details.

Those details should be collected in the form of a record of supervision.  Are involved officers sharing obs with the probation department for inclusion in the field file? Is the PO contacted prior to compliance checks?  Absent a central field supervision file, how do the various agencies empowered to check on parolees log and share contact data?

From Paco’s perspective, it appears the street cops are dealing with offenders regardless of the probation authority rather than doing so cooperatively.  Invariably, poor communication leads to miscommunication and that leads to danger.

I recall several cases in Sacramento County where local agencies conducted ‘raid’ style parole searches, entering the residence of record with guns drawn, only to find the parolee is engaged in a visit with a chagrined parole agent.  Doubtless such incidents will happen on a local level with some frequency.

In the long term, Los Angeles’ law enforcement agencies will come to realize probation departments exist precisely because is not cost effective to perform casework functions with beat cops.  Eventually, LAPD and LASO will have multiple parole compliance teams charged with routine parole searches and violator apprehension–The cost effectiveness of individual caseloads will be evident as police resources dwindle even as parolee ranks swell.

Parenthetically, if the street cops are intent upon collecting urine during compliance checks they may have to obtain the specimens by wringing-out  the parolee’s underpants.

“…three LAPD officers showed up at her door, handcuffed her and searched her room.  “They scared the living mess out of me…( Los Angeles Times)”

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