Priest turned probation officer to retire

For 23 years, Al Rosen has tried to help adults in trouble and play guardian, father and counselor to countless youth offenders.

The worst case the probation officer remembers was an adult drifter in 1985 who shot a Kingman gas station attendant in the back of the head with a shotgun.

When Rosen interviewed the suspect in jail, Rosen noticed a scar on the man's arm.

When asked, the suspect said he shot himself just to see how the pain felt.

"A true psychopath is pretty immune to change," Rosen said.

In April, Rosen plans to retire from the Mohave County Probation Department as assistant chief probation officer.

A former Franciscan priest, Rosen on Tuesday was named supervisor of the year for 2002 by the Arizona Association of Chief Probation Officers.

The Mohave County Probation Department has won the award four years in a row.

"We have a lock on this thing," Rosen said with a laugh.

The previous three awards were won by Assistant Chief Probation Officer Doris Goodale, Administration Supervisor Donna Robles and Chief Probation Officer Rod Marquardt.

In 1952, Rosen began attending a Franciscan boarding school in Santa Barbara, Calif., at age 13.

The later joined the order before attending theology school.

At 25, he was ordained.

He taught at San Luis Rey mission in San Diego before leaving the order.

Rosen joined the probation department in 1980, when it had about a half dozen employees including several groups of house parents who would work at the juvenile detention facility in three- to four-day shifts.

Seven years later, Rosen became one of two assistant chief probation officers, along with Goodale, when the department split into adult and juvenile departments.

Mohave County is one of five Arizona counties where adult and juvenile offenders are combined within the department.

"The biggest difference is with kids you have their parents, too," Rosen said.

Another difference is that probation officers become involved with juveniles as soon as they are arrested.

Probation officers don't become involved with adult offenders until after they are convicted of or plead guilty to a crime.

Rosen said he has not seen much change in the number of juvenile referrals since he started.

The probation department sees about 3,000 juveniles a year for crimes ranging from assaults, drugs, violent crimes and even runaways.

Ten or 15 years ago, female offenders were rare.

Now, as many girls go through the juvenile system than boys, Rosen said.

The majority of youth offenders are arrested for domestic violence assault crimes.

"There are also more younger kids in the system now," Rosen said.

"More and more kids who are 10 years old or younger."

Rosen also has seen more children who are raised by grandparents instead of their parents.

Keeping up with teen-agers is hard on grandparents who are in their late 50s or 60s, Rosen said.

He said he will miss the people he works with as well as people he tried to help.

"You get to see inside people's lives," Rosen said.

"In the clergy, you get invited into their lives.

In probation, the court orders you into it."

Rosen said a good probation officer has to be patient and understand people.

"There is a lot of history working against you," he said.

The main reason he is retiring is because his wife, Sandra, a teacher at Hualapai Elementary School for most of the 20 years, retired last year.