Juvenile corrections officer under investigation for child abuse

BARSTOW - The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is investigating allegations that a 34-year-old mother, who works as a juvenile correctional officer in the county probation division, repeatedly used pepper spray to discipline her own children.

Sgt. Manny Mendoza said that the mother allegedly pepper sprayed her two daughters, aged 14 and 17, on multiple occasions as a means of discipline. The Desert Dispatch has withheld the woman's name because she has not been arrested for any crime.

Deputies responded to a Child Protective Services report of child abuse on the 34000 block of Camino Real in Lenwood on Monday afternoon at 2:07 p.m. A third party had made the initial report to CPS regarding the mother's use of pepper spray on her children, Mendoza said.

"It seems like for the past two years, they had been disciplined that way," Mendoza said.

The children were taken into custody by CPS, and a report will be given to the District Attorney's Office. The mother has not been arrested or charged in the case. Mendoza said that she may face child abuse charges, however.

"Depending on the circumstances of the case, once the child is out of danger, there's no rush to arrest the parent," he said.

Due to laws mandating that in-custody defendants be arraigned within 48 hours, Mendoza said, deputies can conduct a more thorough investigation with the suspect out of custody.

The woman's employer was notified of the investigation, he said. Cyndi Fuzie, superintendent of the High Desert Juvenile Detention and Assessment Center in Apple Valley, said the agency does not comment on the pending investigation of an officer. She declined to comment on whether the woman had been suspended from her position.
Detention officers go through 40 hours of training a year, involving all aspects of their duties, Fuzie said. The detention center's policy on the use of pepper spray reserves it for self-defense situations.

"(Pepper spray) is used for defensive tactics only, and to prevent injuries," she said.

The sheriff's investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information can call the sheriff's station at 256-4838. To remain anonymous, call WeTip at 1-800-78-CRIME or leave information on the WeTip Web site at www.wetip.com.

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