Blevins named probation chief

DOWNEY - Donald H. Blevins, who has been credited with turning around Alameda County's Probation Department, will become Los Angeles County's chief probation officer on April 19.The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week appointed Blevins to head the department at an annual salary of $227,000. He replaces Robert Taylor, who retired Feb. 5. Cited for his experience, managerial skills and leadership, Blevins has spent his entire 34-year career in the probation field, more than 14 years of which has been in management. "He turned around the Alameda County Probation Department, one of the most-troubled probation agencies in the state, and he is just what LA County needs at this critical juncture," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas agreed. "This department may very well be the most broken in the County of Los Angeles," he said. " I look forward to Donald Blevins' urgently needed reform efforts and supporting his leadership." Blevins acknowledged that Alameda County had some difficult issues when he joined that department as chief probation officer in 2003. Among his accomplishments in Alameda County were the introduction of evidence-based practices to move toward assessment-driven services to clients; collaboration to create a juvenile mental health court; expansion of service to sexually exploited minors; enhanced literacy program for juvenile hall youth; implementation of a kiosk reporting system for adult offenders; institution of cost-effective alternatives to detention, including electronic and GPS monitoring; and enhancement of revenue and fee collection. Blevins said he would also emphasize evidence-based practices in Los Angeles County, which he described as basing department procedures and practices on what research has proven to be effective. "Something might feel good, but does it work?" With limited financial resources, the department must work more efficiently, he said. Noting that the Los Angeles County Probation Department was the largest probation department in the world, Blevins said he considers his new job "an opportunity of a lifetime" and looks forward to helping the department "get back on track." "I like a challenge, and this is a challenge on a grand scale," he said. Blevins said his strength is that he knows the probation field "inside and out," starting out as a deputy probation officer in San Diego County in 1976 and reaching the position of probation director of the adult field services before going to Alameda County. He is active in numerous professional organizations, including the National Institute of Corrections, the Chief Probation Officers of California, the California Parole, Probation and Corrections Association, the American Probation and Parole Association, and the National Association of Probation Executives. He received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and sociology from the United States International University/Cal Western Campus-San Diego in 1974 and did graduate work in sociology in 1976 at the San Diego State University. The Los Angeles County Probation Department, established in 1903, has a $692.8 million budget and 6,136 positions. Its headquarters are in Downey. Blevins, 58, said he and his wife, Laura, will be visiting the area soon to find a place to live, hopefully not far from the Probation Department's Downey headquarters. From a personal standpoint, he said, the move back to Southern California is a good one since he and his wife will be closer to family in San Diego, including his son Jacob, stepson Jorge in Los Angeles, and son Josh in Las Vegas. "I am looking forward to the move and the challenge," he said.

********** Published: February 19, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 44