Probation officers are tasked with monitoring and keeping tabs on paroled criminals. And while the vast majority of criminals tend to prefer to avoid confrontation with their probation officer, sometimes criminals will verbally or even physically attack a PO, while seeing them as a representation of a system they feel is against them. This leads to a logical question: do probation officers carry guns? The answer, as with so many of these kinds of questions, is that it depends on multiple factors.
The American Probation and Parole Association issued a statement in 1994 in which it neither affirmed nor denied its support for the arming of probation officers in the United States. The organization did say, however, that it believed that in cases where probation officers are armed, such arming should have the safety of the officer as its focus, and should only be done when needed. This statement belies the reality of arming probation officers in the country: some jurisdictions and municipalities have decided that it is warranted, while others have decided that it is not.
In early April 2014 Luzerne County, Pennsylvania announced that its probation officers would begin to carry guns on the job as a matter of protection. The decision resulted in a heated debate among those for and against the new policy, with many people claiming that the carrying of guns by the county’s probation officers would send the wrong message. Proponents of the change insist that the officers’ lives are at risk when dealing with hardened criminals, and that they should be able to protect themselves. They say that criminals are often armed, and that the officers are at a distinct disadvantage if they are forced to always conduct their jobs unarmed.
As it stands there is no federal ban on probation officers carrying guns. Neither is there any requirement. As such, it is up to individual states and municipalities to decide.