With overcrowding in California jails at critical levels, the federal government stepped in and ordered California to reduce its number of prisoners. The state responded by passing a law in 2011 that did just that.
Unfortunately, this means that more dangerous criminals are released in California, posing a threat to their probation officers. In the past, state probation officers would have overseen most of these parolees, but this responsibility has shifted to county probation officers.
Most counties in California responded by arming their probation officers, so they can defend themselves when necessary. Of 63 counties in the state, only five had unarmed probation officers.
This number just dropped to four, since the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors recently authorized its Probation Department to buy guns for its officers. This vote was unanimous and is a testimony to the need for probation officers to be able to protect themselves.
This new policy also makes it easier for probation officers to do their jobs. They need to search high-risk offenders and visit their homes but were at risk from violent criminals. In these cases, the Calaveras County probation officers had to get a Sheriff’s deputy to help them with their routine probation duties.
This policy took a toll on both the Probation and Sheriff’s Departments and made it less likely that the county probation officers would be able to monitor the parolees as closely as they needed to. Now that these probation officers will be armed, they can conduct these searches and home visits on their own.
The Chief Probation Officer will choose who is authorized to use firearms and will make sure that they are highly trained in both lethal and nonlethal force. This policy mandates that armed probation officers also be trained to use such methods as pepper spray and batons, although they only have to carry one of these options.
The Board of Supervisors requires additional training for these armed officers, so that they are well versed in defensive tactics and CPR/First aid. Hopefully these guns will stay in their holsters, but now these probation officers can adequately protect themselves if they are faced with a potentially dangerous situation.