What is a Probation Officer?
Probation officers are responsible for supervising people that have been sentenced to probation. A Probation Officer’s main duty is to enforce court ordered Conditions of Probation and ensure that those they are supervising are abiding by their order. Probation Officers meet with their probationers either at their homes, place of work, treatment facilities, or any other place the probationer may be.
Probation practice varies greatly among individual departments. In New York, there are 57 County Departments, many of which also have satellite offices. Each department operates independently. Enforcement may be similar among all departments, but also has its differences. For example, some jurisdictions are permitted to carry firearms, while some are not. Some departments place a large emphasis on the law enforcement side of supervision, such as home visits and field supervision, while some departments focus on primarily on supervising offenders in the office, utilizing a social work approach. All Probation Officers in New York State are certified Peace Officers and must complete rigorous training to earn certification. In addition, continuous training is mandated throughout the year.
What does a Probation Officer do?
Probation Officers primarily perform three functions – intake, investigation, and supervision. The number one priority is maintaining public safety. The duties of a Probation Officer may include:
- Evaluating matters for adjustment at the intake level for juvenile matters
- Performing supervision of persons in lieu of court action such as diversion
- Obtaining and analyzing social and legal data and preparing reports in relation to matters pending in the courts concerning persons awaiting disposition by the courts
- Reviewing conditions of sentence and other rules to persons placed under Probation supervision
- Supervising such individuals by assuring compliance with their conditions of probation
- Counseling and assisting probationers with problems related to compliance and to the maintenance of lawful behavior in the community
- Preparing progress reports on persons under supervision
- Periodically reviewing case histories to determine degree of adjustment
- Preparing violation reports and testifying at delinquency hearings
- Establishing and maintaining contact with other social and law enforcement agencies and cooperating with them in matters of mutual interest
- Helping to maintain a variety of records utilized by the Probation office
There are many other duties that a Probation Officer performs on a daily basis. Probation Officers exercise discretion and perform their unique roles with a balanced approach to fostering offender rehabilitation. A common trait of Probation Officers throughout New York State is our dedication to our profession and the desire to make our communities a safer place to live.
How do I become a Probation Officer?
The field of Probation requires dedication. Those interested in pursuing a career as a Probation Officer must meet the minimum educational qualifications and pass a civil service examination offered by the county you wish to be employed by.
For the entry level position of Probation Officer Trainee, a Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice, criminology, sociology, psychology, education, social work, or a closely related field of study is required. An individual possessing a Master’s Degree in one of those fields may be eligible to be hired as a Probation Officer. Additionally, some departments hire Probation Officer Assistants who perform various tasks to support Probation Officers’ duties. The education requirement for Probation Officer Assistants differs by county.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Probation Officer in New York State, contact your local Probation Department or its county’s department of personnel for minimum requirements and civil service examination information.