Federal Probation Officer
A federal police officer works for the U.S. District Court System. Federal police officers are comprised of a wide variety of personnel who transport inmates to trial, ensure courtrooms area safety, and help repeat offenders in making better choices in life. Working as a federal probation officer (FPO) is one way of protecting the community by assessing and helping the inmates. These officers attend to the inmates’ needs. One special role of the job is the ability to communicate extensively with the offenders and gain the ability to oversee their actions to be able to give an accurate recommendation for them. This role puts the FPOs in a position to make the best sentencing decisions for the offenders because they have a well-developed and strong understanding of the criminals’ state of mind and likelihood of reoffending. The job involves working at any one of the federal courts across the country. Like any other career, FPOs need preparation like enrolling in the right career program and meeting all the specified requirements. Considering the importance of this occupation, necessary qualifications, hiring process procedure, main responsibilities, wages, and the upward mobility should be taken a closer look at to have a better understanding of what it is like, what opportunities it brings, and what an officer has to do.
There are basic requirements to qualify for FPO. One must be a U.S. citizen and be no older than 37 years at the time of appointment. However, the U.S. Probation and Pre-trial services may consider applicants above 37 years who have previous law enforcement experience. The applicant must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice or psychology or in any other related field. For fresh graduates, having experience through internship program is advisable because many government positions offer such courses to college students.
One of the conditions to get the job is to pass the pre-employment tests. They are aimed at examining the health status of the officers. Physical fitness is of high importance because these officers work in a stressful and physically demanding environment so they must fulfill certain physical fitness and age requirements. An example is to use firearms and defend them physically. They must have a solid mental ground since the job is emotionally exhausting and this includes passing a background investigation, for example, not having a record of a felony conviction. The U.S. Probation and Pre-trial services require these officers to walk and stand for long durations, have good distance vision with or without lenses in at least one eye and be able to read normal size print. Their hearing ability must also be good. Therefore, having a health disorder may result in officer’s losing his position. There are also additional background checks every five years in the employment duration. Another aspect is passing a drug test. These officers are also subject to random and reasonable suspicion workplace drug tests.
After getting the job, the FPOs must attend a six-week new officer orientation program that teaches them fulfilling their job responsibilities. This course is also aimed at the safe use of firearms. Some courts require new officers to attend on job trading sessions where they are taught different skills, including writing reports, budgeting, and investigation.
The U.S. Probation and Pre-trial services accept resumes via their employment application system. There are unique links for each position. For this position, the officers-to-be should meet the requirements as outlined in the announcement and should upload a minimum of a two-page cover letter, resume, two most recent performance evaluations, a completed application, and references. Only official transcripts are accepted, and, therefore, they should be submitted separately. They also should be sent by e-mail to email@example.com from one university or college and by the regular mail or an overnight courier.
The applicants are usually contacted at several times throughout the hiring process. For example, they might receive a formal application or consideration for the position, or their names may appear on the certificate of eligible candidates. A panel interview prior to the final selection is scheduled for a qualified candidate.
Once selected, a background investigation is conducted to find out their suitability for the employment as a law enforcement official. The scope of investigation comprises of criminal record and credit checks, previous employers, and personal references. Once the background investigation is completed and passed, citizen verifications are to ensure the citizenship of the U.S. The next step is age verification, which is to ensure at the initial appointment, the candidate is prior to his or her 37th birthday. The drug test is also necessary.
The U.S. Probation and Pre-trial services are dedicated to ensuring their workplace is a drug-free zone, and every worker has zero-tolerance for the substance abuse. A urinalysis test is necessary for drug detection. Finally, the candidates undergo medical and physician examination. This procedure is aimed at finding out their determination on the ability to perform duties of the position based on the medical history report and physical examination. Every FPO must meet all the medical and physical requirements. After the applicants pass all the tests, he or she is hired. During the first year of employment, the applicants must undergo thorough orientation and correctional training among others. During the rest of the employment period, additional training opportunities may be provided.
Working with the federal probation service entails an occupation at the U.S. District Courts by mainly supervising offenders convicted of federal crimes. These are either offenders who have been placed on probation without serving a jail sentence or those that have recently been released from a federal prison (Hall, 2015). The primary responsibility of the FPO is to ensure that the offenders do not violate the probation terms through engaging in further crimes. They help criminals to actively engage in activities that build productive lives and contribute to the society.
The officers are obliged to fulfill many specific duties. One of them is collaborating with various community-based agencies to help offenders access housing, entitlements, get decent jobs, and access counseling if needed. They follow up to ensure that offenders attend all the necessary appointments. Their duty is to monitor their clients to guarantee they do all that is required of them every time. Offenders should abide by home and work visits. Others are required to wear electronic bracelets that record their location as they have curfews. Another duty is reviewing the court, school, and employment records among others of offenders whenever necessary. The FPOs are also responsible for meeting offenders regularly to talk with them and keep track of their progress by incorporating the recommendations from families, employers, and councilors. This is to ensure good progress and compliance during their probation periods. Lastly, they are tasked with providing testimonies to the court about the offenders’ progress and success within the rehabilitation program. These duties are special and rewarding as they work to change lives of offenders for the better. The FPOs are, therefore, special experts in guiding offenders and reporting their status to the court.
There are many federal courts in the US. In reality, the outlook of the job depends on the location of the court as some areas are more demanding depending on factors like how many criminals pass through your local court system. If the job outlook is promising, then it is important to choose the right degree, and work experience options on the career path as federal jobs are very competitive, and they require a person to do everything possible to qualify. The FPOs are paid through court personnel systems. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), the median salary of the FPO is $49,360 as of 2015. Salary depends on pay grade, experience, education, and location. Depending on these factors the starting salaries range from $26,460 to $50,000 per year. Professionals with prior experience in a related field like psychological care, counseling, social work, and law enforcement have better salaries than those with no experience. These fields offer skills needed in probation officer duties.
According to the BLS (2015), the municipal governments offer the most lucrative salaries for professionals. The urban areas offer a higher pay in comparison with the suburban ones. The highest paid probation officers live in California, New Jersey, and Connecticut. People living in these areas have higher average incomes, and their salaries are adjusted to attract them. The pay is only part of total compensation as there are many benefits when working with the federal judiciary. Employees are offered diverse bonuses to meet their needs and those of their families. For example, they are provided with the coverage of the living costs.
The raises in salaries are usually offered upon promotion or advancement in one’s education through further learning and with the experience. The pay can go up to $78,860 annually or above. A higher position in the probation services like deputy probation officer (DPO) and chief probation officer (CPO) is associated with higher wages. The government may also propose pay rise for probation officers and set a higher starting salary and increment in higher positions. For example, at the end of January 2017, Governor Rick Scott proposed a boost in the salary of probation and prison law enforcement officers. The proposed pay would cost approximately $38 million in all the state’s officers and lift the starting salary of probation officers from $33,000 to $36,850 (Kasner, 2017). All these factors determine the pay rise of FPOs.
Career advancement in the probation positions depends on job performance, experience, and education improvement. Promotion to the DPO requires one to move up the ladder to level 11 or to a senior position and gain one-year experience in the field. Advancing to level 111 or supervisory position requires three years experience, but in some places, advancement may require having a graduate degree in criminal justice or related field (Johnston, 2014). One’s progress depends on different qualifications as outlined by various states. The DPOs work in state courts and help convicted offenders reintegrate into the society. Some of their duties include investigating the background of offenders, recommending living conditions and level of supervision needed upon release. They help these individuals adjust when they leave prison.
As one gains experience as an FPO, he or she can be promoted to the CPO position. The BLS (2015) states that many probation employers require new employees to work in a training capacity for up to a year to be offered a permanent position. This experience can be in the form of social work or criminal investigations. Some states may need one to have managerial experience to be the CPO. Education qualifications are required in addition to experience to become the CPO. A master’s degree in criminal justice or any other related field can provide the advanced knowledge necessary to be promoted to higher ranks within the probation positions.
Probation officers are expected to have a relatively higher growth rate in their career compared to other occupations. This is a positive factor for the professionals as indicated in the figure below (Figure 1). The chart indicates that the projected growth of FPOs is expected to expand to 125000 in 2018, giving more opportunities for both practicing and in-job professionals.
Figure 1: Job growth projection. Retrieved from http://www.criminal-justice-schools-online.com/programs/step3.aspx
Summing it up, probation officers are important members in the criminal justice system. Their specialized duties require necessary qualifications including mental and physical fitness. The Probation and the Pre-trial system ensure it takes in qualified people and gives them a good platform to serve the community and to reflect their dedication to it. It is through its officers and employees that the system process is made effective and safe to the public.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015). Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. [Statistical data]. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm
Hall, S. (2015). Why probation matters. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 54(4), 321-335.
Johnston, C. H. (2014). Careers in criminal justice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Kasner, A. J. (2017). Local government design, mayoral leadership, and law enforcement reform. Stanford Law Review, 69(2).