Probation officers are responsible for looking after parolees who have been recently released from prison or placed into a probation program due to criminal activity. Should an offender step outside the boundaries of the parole sentence by causing disruption or committing a second criminal offense, the probation officer may be required to physically restrain and apprehend an offender. The nature of the job means candidates must be in good physical condition to be accepted as a probation officer.
Good vision is required for a probation officer, and the United States Probation Office indicates a probation officer candidate must have good distance vision in at least one eye and the ability to read normal sized print without corrective lenses. A probation officer need not have perfect vision and may still be accepted into the probation officer position with corrective lenses. An officer must be able to spot parolees from a distance when making scheduled and unscheduled checks, and an officer should be able to discern probation paperwork without excessive difficulty. Errors that are made in interpreting or completing probation paperwork due to an officer's vision restrictions can have serious ramifications.
Probation officers should also have acceptable hearing without the use of a hearing aid, although a probation officer candidate may also be accepted into the program if a hearing aid is used to accommodate a minimal loss of hearing in one or both ears. Hearing tests will be administered as part of the probation officer's physical examination, and candidates who fail to meet an established minimum level of hearing capability may not be accepted into the program or may be asked to leave the position. Good hearing is important to a probation officer's sense of awareness when dealing with potentially dangerous situations.
Part of the probation officer's job entails long hours spent walking and standing. In some cases, a probation officer must move quickly when apprehending an offender or when traveling to different locations to perform parole checks. Due to the physical demands of the job, a probation officer is expected to have good physical stamina for walking, running and climbing flights of stairs. Physical stamina will be tested during the physical examination along with blood pressure and heart rate to check for normal levels and to pinpoint any physical abnormalities or deficiencies.
Physical ability will also be examined as part of the physical examination. The possibly dangerous side effects of a probation officer's job function requires that candidates have the ability to defend themselves and protect bystanders from an offender's attack. Probation officer recruits will be tested and trained in personal defense, strength training and coordination.
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