Based on the Actual Experiences of a Probation Officer

Kurt Niemann
This book contains 82 vignettes about the author’s experiences as a rookie officer, then as a member for 12 years of an inner-city unit dealing primarily with gangs and drugs, then with a unit dealing with “incorrigible” juveniles and “dysfunctional,” often violent, families, and finally, as the designer and coordinator of his state’s first Academy for Juvenile Detention Officers.


I am certain that my lack of criminal savvy (as a rookie officer) would have come as a surprise to my childhood teachers and counselors, some of whom, I have discovered in recent years, had believed that I’d died either in prison or by a Police Officer’s firearm. By my age 17, I was a school dropout, and, by virtue of my mother’s ability to work faster than a Juvenile Court Judge, I was introduced into the event-filled life of a United States Marine, commencing in sunny San Diego, California.

The “Godfather” of the “Los Latinos Locos” gang was Benny Grabitz. Benny was in his late 50s when I became involved with his immediate family. Benny was a chain-smoker. He had what his wife told me was a terminal case of emphysema, yet I rarely saw him without a cigarette. He always had a large oxygen tank on wheels next to him. He would remove the oxygen tubes from his nose, take a puff from his cigarette, and then bring the tubes back to his nose. He had the physical movements down pat. One would expect such precision from the Godfather of a gang.

The “Incorrigible Families” I found easiest to deal with were those who would loudly demand upfront that we of the Court System “do something”—and they already knew from the beginning what they wanted that “something” to be done to “cure” their kid. The more upfront they were with their demands for detention, placement in a foster setting of some sort, psychiatric hospitalization, the easier it was to address every demand with what could and could not be possible within the Juvenile Justice System. In my experience, a little firm and upfront education went a long way with these families, and very often in the end they could be referred to Court – sponsored Family Counseling.

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