Probation and Parole Officers the Carrying of Firearms
Community Resources In Corrections - Fall, 2011
Probation and Parole Officers have a common goal to protect the public. They play a vital role in the criminal justice process. The criminal offenders and the areas in which they work may be dangerous. The question of whether parole and probation officers should carry firearms has fueled controversy. Some who favor treatment-based model of supervision have objected to officers carrying a firearm, while others have embraced it. Some agencies throughout the United States have made carrying a weapon an option, some others have gone the mandatory route, ...view middle of the document...
Officers also must go to “crime-infested” neighborhoods to conduct necessary home visits. They face victimization in the form of assault, serious injury, or death at the hands of the clients they supervise. One of the most hotly contested issues concerns the discrepancy between actual and perceived levels of officer safety. In 1996, parole officers on a routine evening home inspection in Denver found
that their client was not at home, but his sister permitted the officers to check the premises. Inside his closet, the officers found a pistol. As they were removing the weapon, the parolee arrived and was met by the officers in front of the house. Informed that he was being taken into custody, the parolee bolted and ran behind the house with officers in pursuit. Suddenly, he halted, drew a weapon, and aimed at the officers, who fatally shot the parolee. This illustrates the point that some offenders are armed and under the influence of
controlled substances. Knowing that officers are routinely carrying firearms has a deterrent value. Many unarmed officers gain a degree of safety because they are perceived as police officers or otherwise believed to be armed. Some advocates have supported the carrying of firearms by community supervision officers because there is an increased perception of safety, which leads to a confident parole and probation officer in the field.
Over the years there have been several contests over this. Probation officers who are designated as peace officers may only carry on duty if authorized to do so by their agency. However, they may carry off duty with or without permission. I had a friend who was a probation officer with an agency that prohibited their personnel from being armed while on duty. She jokingly told me at start of watch, everyone went to their lockers to disarm themselves for duty. At end of watch they went back to the locker rooms to arm themselves for the trip home. In this matter, the court ruled that an employing probation agency had the right to regulate its officers' on duty conduct (such as prohibiting their carrying weapons). However, the court also ruled that the agency had no right to prohibit off duty carry. The logic here was that the right to carry was granted by an act of the legislature and a government agency does not have the right to administratively deny its employees rights already granted them as a matter of law.
In New York, probation (city or county) and parole officers are considered peace officers who can carry firearms if their agency provides the proper training and authorizes it. New York parole officers are required to qualify with firearms as a condition of employment and they must carry their weapon 9mm Glock on duty. They may carry the department weapon or other weapon with which they have qualified while off-duty. No credential beyond those issued by the agency is required. For probation and parole officers, the carrying of...