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Probation officer accused of shoplifting with her teens

The department veteran, assigned to aid in rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, is arrested on suspicion of theft and contributing to delinquency of minors.

June 07, 2013|By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times

A veteran Los Angeles County Probation Department officer assigned to aid in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders has been placed on unpaid leave after being arrested on suspicion that she contributed to the delinquency of her own children.

Ruth Marzan, an officer with more than two decades with the department, was arrested by sheriff's deputies May 25 at a Kmart in Temple City after security personnel alleged that they saw her shoplift items and coach her two teenage children to do the same.

Marzan, 46, was also booked on suspicion of shoplifting and petty theft before her release. She is due to appear in court July 23.

Carol Lin, a spokeswoman for county Probation Chief Jerry Powers, said the matter is subject to further investigation by the agency's professional-standards unit, which recently received additional staffers to help clean up the troubled department.

Department officials feel "that the facts of this case warrant the most aggressive job action available to the chief," Lin said. "He has repeatedly told employees that they are to be held accountable for their behavior 24/7."

Marzan did not return a telephone message from The Times seeking comment.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said that Marzan was seen stealing two MP3 players, a Dodgers T-shirt, panties and tights and that her sons — 14 and 17 — were caught taking Bluetooth devices and headphones.

Her sons were arrested on suspicion of petty theft and released to the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. They were later released to the care of a family friend, Whitmore said.

The Probation Department has been dogged by personnel problems for years, and Powers said he has made employee discipline a priority.

The number of Los Angeles County Probation Department employees investigated for serious crimes last year remained roughly the same as in 2011 despite efforts to weed out misconduct through improved training, according to a county report.

In 2012, 64 employees were arrested or questioned regarding crimes ranging from burglary to attempted murder, according to a report by the county's Office of Independent Review. In 2011, 69 probation employees were arrested.

"The frequency of off-duty employee misconduct continues to plague the department," according to the report.

Twenty-five of last year's arrests involved driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and other cases include an officer accused of shooting another man in the chest after an argument, a man accused of stealing electronic equipment from a store, and a high-ranking division chief who allegedly defrauded a bank and two credit unions of nearly $200,000.

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