Knock, knock: A look at home visits for probation and parole

While training, equipment carried and policies vary widely in probation/parole work, officer safety remains the priority

On a late January afternoon in 2001, a probation/parole officer received information that an offender was violating the terms of his probation. As the offender was on electronic monitoring, the probation officer was able to determine the offender was home. The probation officer, along with a colleague, decided to conduct a home visit at the offender’s house.

On the way, the probation officers discussed their strategy for the home visit. They decided they were going to arrest the offender based upon the violations that had been committed. Both probation officers were wearing body armor, but were unarmed per department policy. They decided to contact the local police department for assistance prior to going to the home; three officers were dispatched to assist.

The officers met and conducted a briefing and proceeded to the home; where they made contact with a resident and were allowed inside the home.  At 5:20 p.m., while speaking with the offender in his bedroom, one of the police officers noticed a bullet in an ashtray. When the police officer questioned the offender about the bullet, the offender pulled a handgun and pointed it at the police officer. The police officer drew his duty weapon and shot the offender, saving his life and the life of one the probation officers.

This incident shows how home visits can be inherently dangerous for officers due to all the unknowns. It is common for probation officers to work with law enforcement agencies to conduct searches and arrests of offenders and they must always be ready for a “routine” home visit to take a turn for the worse. 

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