Douglas suspends JPO program |

Douglas suspends JPO program

by Merrie Leininger

After six Clark County youths on a juvenile probation road cleanup crew were killed by a drunk driver Sunday, Douglas County suspended its weekend cleanup detail until a risk assessment can be done.

District Judge David Gamble said he directed Juvenile Probation Chief Scott Cook Monday to suspend the program and check if all precautions are being taken.

“I told them to just stop until they figure it out. When you are given a wake-up call like that, you just have to examine everything and make sure you are doing everything possible to protect the kids,” Gamble said.

He said while he thinks the danger for Douglas County work crews is probably less than in Clark County, there are still other, safer ways for the juveniles to do community service.

Gamble said the program is used by JPO so the kids can repay the community by cleaning up the roadsides.

“I use it as a tool to show them there is actual results of their activity that is more practical than some of the other probationary tools we use,” he said. “It’s no fun for the kids and there are times when I want it to be no fun, but we don’t want to put them in danger.”

JPO Chief Scott Cook said he and County Manager Dan Holler will form a risk assessment team to decide if the program should continue.

“We will take a look at what we do and the risk, as opposed to the benefits, and come up with a decision as to what we should be doing and if there are any limitations we could put on it,” he said.

Cook said the office already takes as many precautions as possible.

“We’ve always followed DOT policies. We have supervisors that have been through the DOT training. There’s signs (warning motorists of the work crews), and a van that has a light, and the kids all wear orange vests. It’s one of those things that we can do everything, but the unknown factor is a drunk driver. I think it is a prudent thing to do, especially since the county is liable,” Cook said.

Cook said Douglas County has never had any injuries and has been taking out crews of about 8 students every Saturday and every morning in the summer.

However, he said his office has received about six calls from concerned parents since the Clark County accident.

He said the office will find other projects for the students in the meantime.

Cook said the office will look into cleaning green belts for the general improvement districts, illegal dump sites for the county code enforcement office, or even reseeding and trail maintenance for the Forest Service.

Cook said it could be a couple of weeks before a decision is made, unless the county’s attorneys determine right away the program is too big a risk.