So what did Family Services Director Philip Browning do about all of this?
He put four employees on desk duty pending further review.
Desk duty? You mean they're still on the job and getting paid to make decisions about children's lives?
I would have had a different assignment for them and anyone else who touched this case: Leave the building immediately. Depending on their level of involvement, I would have fired them or suspended them without pay while the review continues. And I would have lined all their supervisors up against the wall and ordered them to explain how there could have been such a catastrophic breakdown.
Sure, these are difficult jobs and thousands of kids are at risk at any time. And although Family Services employees do a lot of good and even heroic work under difficult circumstances, some children will die because their own relatives are monsters.
But Gabriel Fernandez is dead despite overwhelming evidence that he was in peril for months, if not longer. And a recent review of the department found that in 15 other cases where a child died, nobody was fired despite "egregious errors" by department staff.
Maybe this leniency is why Browning is having so much trouble changing the "culture" of the department, as he's been trying to do in his 15 months on the job. By some accounts, he's made some headway, and in an interview Friday he laid out several ways in which he's trying to establish more "common sense, critical thinking and accountability."
"It defies my imagination how someone could not have seen this coming," Browning said. But then he began to couch it, saying that "Monday morning quarterbacking is very easy" and the "culture can't be changed overnight and it can't be changed in a year or two."
Nonsense. Just tell people to do their jobs, and crack down on them when they don't.
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If Browning can't get the job done soon, the Board of Supervisors — which ultimately is responsible for this long-running nightmare — should find a replacement.
At 2:52 p.m. on May 24, Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale was pronounced dead.
He was 8 years old.