L.A. County supervisors call for probation chief’s ouster after video of violent restraint of teen

A still frame from leaked surveillance footage
A still frame from leaked surveillance footage appears to show L.A. County Probation Department supervisor Oscar Cross restraining a 17-year-old boy during a struggle at Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu in 2020.
(Obtained by the Los Angeles Times)

A majority of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and members of an oversight panel called for the ouster of the head of the Probation Department this week after The Times published a disturbing video showing staff at a juvenile facility violently restraining a teenage boy.

Four of the five supervisors — Janice Hahn, Kathryn Barger, Lindsey Horvath and Holly Mitchell — called for Chief Adolfo Gonzales’ resignation Friday morning, a day after the county’s Probation Oversight Commission recommended he be fired. The commission, which is an advisory body, also voted unanimously that Gonzales’ second in command, Chief Deputy Karen Fletcher, should be fired as well.

“I have lost confidence in Chief Gonzales’ ability to run our Probation Department. His ineffective leadership is hurting both the youth in our care and our staff who deserve better,” Hahn said in a statement. “I believe the best way forward is for Chief Gonzales to step down.”


If Gonzales does not resign, a majority of the five-member Board of Supervisors can vote to fire him.

The video, which The Times released earlier this month, depicts five probation officers piling on top of a 17-year-old and holding him by his neck after an argument inside Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu in October 2020. The teen, who said he was hungry and got into an argument with the officers about access to food, screamed in pain but did not appear to be resisting when a supervisor at the camp, Oscar Cross, grabbed his legs.

In the video, Cross bends the boy’s legs backward toward his head as he orders him to “stop resisting,” while the teen screams for his mother. An internal disciplinary board called for Cross to be fired after reviewing the video, according to records reviewed by The Times, and other probation officers have described the incident as “child abuse.”

But Gonzales overrode the disciplinary board’s decision and spared Cross’ job. Cross is still a supervisor at the same facility today, records show. The chief also declined to share the video with any of the oversight bodies that monitor the Probation Department or the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Both the district attorney and the L.A. County Office of Inspector General have opened investigations into the incident in the wake of The Times’ report.

Attempts to contact Cross have been unsuccessful.

“Young people entrusted to probation deserve better,” Horvath said in a statement. “The challenges with probation go far beyond Chief Gonzales. I agree that it is time for him to step aside. More importantly, we must take action to address the systemic issues that are department-wide and that have failed our youth for too long.”


Mitchell said she also supports Gonzales resigning, according to her spokesperson, Lenée Richards. Barger said she believes a shake-up is needed in the leadership of a department plagued by “chronic understaffing” and “abysmal conditions” for youths.

“We are nowhere near the level of rehabilitation and reform that our board has envisioned. We can’t continue to wait for change to happen — we need to drive change,” Barger said. “I am calling for Chief Adolfo Gonzales to resign from the Probation Department’s top post immediately.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis said she believed the Probation Department leadership had failed, though she stopped short of calling for the chief’s resignation.

“This incident makes me question and doubt whether Chief Gonzales and Chief Deputy Fletcher should continue leading this department,” she wrote in a statement.

A Probation Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gonzales, the former chief probation officer in San Diego County, has been in office for a little over two years in L.A. County.

The comments from the supervisors and the vote of the Oversight Commission marked a stunning rebuke of the chief and the latest controversy to envelop the long-troubled agency.


“My decision is not just based on Camp Kilpatrick and what transpired there. My reason is based on everything that has been transpiring since new leadership has come into play,” said Sam Lewis, a member of the Probation Oversight Commission and director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

With its vote recommending Gonzales be fired, the commission also approved a resolution to remove Cross and the staff members who were involved in restraining the teen. A resolution to oust Fletcher, who attended the meeting but did not speak, was then approved separately.

The department has been the subject of severe scrutiny in recent years.

A state oversight board has repeatedly deemed it unsuitable to care for youths, and a Times investigation last year found incidents of violence between officers and youths have increased dramatically as the agency deals with a staffing crisis.

So many officers have resigned or refuse to work in the county’s two juvenile halls that Gonzales began promising officers daily pay bumps just to show up to work late last year, The Times found.

Additionally, the L.A. County Office of Inspector General found that the department carried out a rushed transfer of youths between facilities last year solely to avoid a negative review from a state oversight agency. The transfer resulted in a number of fights and injuries and led to chaos as parents had no idea where their children were on the day of the incident.

Members of the Board of Supervisors began showing frustration with Gonzales’ leadership in public late last year.


At a Dec. 20 meeting, each of the board’s members grilled the chief on why the Probation Department had failed to phase out the use of pepper spray at juvenile detention facilities. The board first voted in early 2019 to ban probation officers from deploying pepper spray, also known as oleoresin capsicum or OC spray.

Visibly angry supervisors called the failure to enforce the ban “frustrating” and “unacceptable.” Hahn told the chief the county leaders were “not in the mood to have any more excuses.”

Times staff writer Melissa Gomez contributed to this report.