From the President

January 16, 2014

Happy New Year everyone! I would like to thank the San Bernardino County Probation Officers Association for hosting our December 2013 meeting in Ontario, California. They did a great job and everyone present had a fun time. 2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Besides work on securing continued probation funding and advocating our legislative agenda, we expect to see a continued effort by supporters of the rights of confined persons to remove or modify the use of solitary confinement for adults and juveniles, additionally we will likely be seeing another fight over pension reform, and let’s not forget it’s an election year in many local jurisdictions and for state constitutional offices.

After two plus years of realignment for adult offenders, the jury is still out on its success. One thing is for sure though, and that’s that realignment is here to stay. Even though some statistics and reports are showing that property crime has gone up since realignment
went into effect in October 2011, we have not seen the massive crime wave that some predicted. It’s also troubling to see that some forces are still relying on scare tactics and inconclusive data to try and prove their point, or find a way to justify building more jails & prisons. This is an approach completely contrary to AB 109 and its implementation. We may not like the fact that more criminals were released onto the streets, but part of Probation’s job has been and continues to be to provide the appropriate treatment, counseling and job training to suitable candidates so that they can become more productive members of society. AB 109ers though, like probationers before them, must be committed to making a positive change in their lives. Without that commitment, they leave us no choice but to enforce conditions of their supervision; which usually results in
them being taken back into custody or face some level of increased sanction.

 An issue that was identified in the last quarter of 2013 was the issue of Title IV-E funding; specifically the possibility of losing the funding altogether. SCOPO, working with the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and other partners, have collaborated on a plan to address the findings of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). For those unaware of what led up to our current predicament, DHHS had conducted site visits during September 2013 at two probation departments in California, whereby DHHS staff reviewed probation youth case files and interviewed probation staff regarding their Title IV-E candidacy claiming policies and procedures. After that review, DHHS sent a letter to CDSS indicating that because of the way those departments were claiming funds, their operating practices would preclude Probation from defining any youth as candidates for foster care and from claiming Title IV-E costs for pre-placement activities associated with this population. This would affect any probation department in the state of California from being able to claim Title IV-E funds. Until we are again able to claim for Title IV-E funding, Title IV-E funding ceased effective October 1, 2013. We are hopeful that DHHS will take our plan of action into consideration, and respond by allowing probation departments throughout the state to begin claiming Title IV-E funds again.

 In addition to addressing ongoing funding concerns, we will back at the Capitol advocating legislation that directly impacts rank & file probation services and juvenile institution officers throughout the state. One of our two carry-over bills, SB 199, would add a rank-and-file deputy probation officer (1) and a deputy sheriff (1) seat to each county’s Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) executive committee. Our second carry-over bill, currently titled AB 1040 but pending reassignment, would arm probation officers who supervise high-risk offenders – both probationers and those that fall under AB 109. One bit of good news, is that since the introduction of our first and now second attempt to get this bill passed, we have had a tremendous impact on getting several previously unarmed probation departments armed or are in the process of being armed – Calaveras, Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano. Additionally, there are several departments that are now expanding their arming program after having only one or a few officers
armed over the years – Los Angeles and Shasta to name two. Our third and last bill, as of yet unassigned, is a jointly sponsored bill between SCOPO and CPOC. The bill, if passed, would exempt active probation peace officers (probation services and juvenile institution officers) from jury duty.

As I mentioned in my last update, we are going to need to be on the lookout for San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s ballot initiative targeted for the November 2014 ballot. On January 6th, Attorney General Kamala Harris issued the formal title and summary for the initiative (titled: Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare.), which would allow cities around California to renegotiate future pension and retirement benefits for public workers. The next day, the initiative was cleared for Mayor Reed and his allies to start gathering signatures. Supporters have yet to decide whether or not to proceed with their effort in getting the initiative on the ballot. If they choose to move forward, supporters will have until June 5th to collect 807,615 signatures in order to qualify for the November ballot. Passage of the initiative would effectively end the vested rights doctrine as it is currently interpreted. The vested rights doctrine is a legal doctrine under which retirement benefits in effect as of the date a public employee is hired cannot be thereafter reduced, subject to a few limited exceptions. SCOPO will continue to monitor and take appropriate action on this issue as it evolves. Stay alert, stay safe, and stand committed.

 Paul Brennan
SCOPO President