Mr. Speaker, on this legislation, I think it is important that individuals understand probation officers. I worked at the courthouse in Houston, Texas, as a prosecutor and then as a criminal court judge for 22 years.
I had probation officers report to me. That was our system. I knew a lot of probation officers, Federal and State. I think our society does not understand how important their job is.
A person comes to court charged with a crime, and the judge decides to release that person on supervised probation. The person goes back out into the community and is supposed to follow a bunch of rules or the probation could be revoked.
Probation officers not only have probationers come to their office to report, but probation officers go out there where these probationers are—in their homes and where they are working—and check up on them, trying to make sure they toe the line. It is a very, very dangerous job, in my opinion.
Many of these probation officers work alone, just because of budget problems. So they will go out there, and they will talk to some probationer about their probation and try to encourage them to, for example, get a job.
That is what you are supposed to do when you are on probation. And they encounter other people—sometimes family members, sometimes friends, sometimes roommates, business associates—and they start yelling and screaming at the probation officer.
Sometimes they commit a crime against the probation officer. What is the probation officer supposed to do? Call the police? No. Under this legislation, it allows the probation officer to arrest other people who are basically committing a crime against the probation officer, whether it is an assault or whether it is a threat or whether it is interfering, maybe, with the arrest of the probationer.
That is what this legislation does. It helps protect the probation officer when they are out there trying to rehabilitate probationers. I have heard stories over the 22 years at the courthouse from probation officers about how, when they go out in one of these areas of Houston, Texas, some of the people that are there with the probationer aren’t the nicest folks in the world, and they start yelling, screaming, and actually will commit a crime against the probation officer— for example, a threat, or maybe even an assault.
Remember, many of these individuals are working alone. They don’t go out there with a SWAT team. They are out there by themselves, and they are doing, really, what we want them to do to keep that probationer following the straight and narrow, make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.
And then sometimes people interfere. This legislation protects the probation officer and allows the officer to keep those folks at bay and arrest them.
Now, I have heard the concerns of whether or not this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. There is no one more supportive of the Fourth Amendment than I am. It does not violate the Fourth Amendment. It gives the probation officer authority to arrest only after probable cause because a crime was committed.
Rather than call for help, call for the Texas Rangers, they can actually arrest that individual who is interfering. I do not believe it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. I would hope those people who think so would read the Fourth Amendment and then read the statute as well. I support this legislation. I appreciate what the chairman and Sheriff REICHERT had to say.
And that is just the way it is, Mr. Speaker.