Tester introduces bill giving probation officers authority to make arrests

Missoula Current

On a week that saw not only commemorations in honor of Montana law enforcement officers, but also the shooting death of a Broadwater County deputy sheriff, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation to provide better protection for probation officers.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Tester said his bill, the Probation Officers Protection Act, gives those officers the authority to arrest anyone who attempts to obstruct their duties or who physically harms them.

The Montana Democrat said probation officers have told him that their lack of arresting authority exposes them to considerable danger in the course of their duties.

“Law enforcement officers are sent into harm’s way every single day and it is critical that they have the tools needed to safely perform their responsibilities,” Tester said.  “This bipartisan bill provides probations officers with the ability to defend themselves and preserve evidence when someone aims to obstruct justice.”

Current law only provides probation officers with the authority to arrest their probationer or an individual on supervised release if that person violated a condition of their probation, but that authority does not extend to individuals not on probation.

That leaves probation officers without the legal ability to intervene when encountering uncooperative or violent individuals who obstruct their official duties.

Tester’s bill is supported by Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Fighters, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs’ of America, National Association of Police Organizations, National Narcotic Officers Associations’ Coalition, and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Tester recognized the service of Montana police officers throughout the week, as did communities across the state.

The observances were particularly poignant, given the shooting death of Broadcast County Sheriff’s Deputy Mason Moore, who was killed after pursuing a vehicle on U.S. Highway 287 early Tuesday.

One of the suspects was later killed by authorities in a shoot-out near Rock Creek, on Interstate 90. The other is in custody in Missoula, charged with multiple counts of attempted deliberate homicide.

Services for Deputy Moore will be held Tuesday at the Bridge church in Belgrade at 11 a.m.