Probation officers serve as public servants; as such, they are required to abide by strict professional guidelines and an ethical code of conduct. Failure to do so reflects poorly on not only the probation officer involved but on the department, the community and the profession. The community must be able to respect the probation officer's ability to protect the public. Although every jurisdiction's rules and regulations for probation officers vary slightly, this overall goal drives most departments.
Before hiring, probation officers must usually possess a bachelor's degree and some level of related work experience to ensure that he will be able to properly perform his work duties. Every department enforces specific requirements as to how probation officers will carry out their duties. Most jurisdictions mandate some type of initial training and then yearly training thereafter. Because the probation officer holds a position of power over juveniles and/or adults, she must be trusted to interact with them using good judgment and discernment.
In many jurisdictions, such as New York, probation officers also act as peace officers. They may carry and use a firearm or other weapon, effect search and seizure, arrest probationers and execute warrants.
Probation officers, as representatives of the court, have an obligation to obey all laws. They must fulfill their duties with impartiality, without discrimination and without prejudice. They must avoid any conflict of interest and not accept gifts that could cloud their judgment. They must be respectful and courteous to everyone, including criminal offenders. They may not use the position for any gain, whether commercial, political or personal. Probation officers must guard the confidentiality of all information available to them.
Probation officers must exhibit professionalism whether on or off duty. When acting in an official capacity, they must not compromise the trust of the public. They must be able to perform their assigned duties efficiently, effectively and professionally.
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