Vote Explanation for H.R. 1039 — Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017

I voted against H.R. 1039, the Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017, which would authorize federal probation officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone who obstructed them from carrying out their work.

Under current law, probation officers can arrest people on probation or supervised release if there’s probable cause to believe they violated the terms of their release; however, they are not authorized to arrest individuals not under their supervision, otherwise known as “third parties.” In circumstances where a probation officer does encounter a hostile third party, the officer may utilize the assistance of local law enforcement to arrest or detain these individuals. This bill purports to address a major issue facing probation officers when in reality probation officers encountered an uncooperative third party only 3% of the time in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

As written, the bill gives probation officers arrest authority for anyone who is “interfering” with their job, which is broadly defined and open to running against an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. The real world implications of this could mean that a mother of a son on probation is arrested for denying a probation officer access to her private space, like her bedroom.

It is also important to note that probation officers are not trained law enforcement officers. Consequently, this bill could well put both these officers and the citizens they encounter at greater risk. I know all too well from my experience in the Marines how important proper training is for potentially hostile or violent situations.

For these reasons, I voted against H.R. 1039.