Probation officers meet regularly with offenders and often go into dangerous areas to investigate potential violations. They manage the cases of criminal offenders who are sentenced by the courts to periods of probation. Officers also take on overwhelming and stressful caseloads that can lead to burnout. The job has several tangible and intangible risks.
Heavy Workloads and Burnout
Probation officers in large cities often deal with overwhelming workloads and case requirements that can lead to stress and burnout, which may eventually lead to leaving the career. Excessive cases leads to long hours, and exhausting, sometimes tedious work. From a day-to-day perspective, the repetitive note taking, filing and handling of cases may lead to burn out or a loss of enthusiasm for the work. This can negatively affect performance and often contributes to officers leaving the job. Additionally, high stress can lead to health issues, such as heart disease, depression and sleep problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Being a probation officer does pose some serious safety risks. Your job involves meeting with criminal offenders, some who committed serious and violent acts. Additionally, officers may have to make home visits into dangerous neighborhoods to follow-up on troubling behaviors. The dangers are so high that officers in some metropolitan areas are allowed or required to carry weapons when they leave the office and complete home visits.
Legal and Ethical Risks
Probation officers face stringent legal and ethical standards. The nature of their jobs may put officers in risky positions where decisions poor decisions could cost them their jobs. Officers must follow laws and employer guidelines when conducting home visits and searches, sharing information with the courts and making arrests when offenders violate probation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also noted in its policies that officers can't fraternize with people engaging in known criminal activity, accept when completing necessary work. This indicates the the risky fine line offers must often walk.
Working Relationships and Integrity
Probation officers must also walk the fine line of helping and interacting with offenders, families and friends and maintaining professional integrity. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement website also indicated that officers are required to report any legal or ethical code violations of colleagues, which could lead to tension or risks of office backlash. Officers also face risks of scrutiny from supervisors if they accept gifts from clients or their families as these could be perceived as bribes.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.