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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Court to Hear Probation Case



Press Release Issued by Probation Association of New Jersey
Tuesday, December 27, 2005 5:21 p.m.

High Court Slated to Determine Legality of State Law
Protecting Probation Officers in Dangerous Neighborhoods

(TRENTON) –The New Jersey Supreme Court is poised to undertake arguments in a pivotal case that will determine whether some of the state’s probation officers would be better protected when entering dangerous communities to seek out probationers. The case, Williams v. The State of New Jersey, will determine the constitutionality of the Probation Officer Community Act, which has been under intense litigation since becoming law in January 2002.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey will hear oral arguments in the Williams v. The State of New Jersey case at 10 a.m., Wednesday, January 4, 2006 in its courtroom at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, Trenton.

George Christie, president of the Probation Association of New Jersey (PANJ), expressed frustration that probation officers working in highly dangerous communities remain in harm’s way because of four years of legal wrangling.

“The Judiciary does not want to enforce the law so it decided to file suit in its own court to stop its implementation,” Christie said. “The reality is, however, that while this case has been tied up in litigation, probation officers have continued to risk their lives seeking out hundreds of probationers who hide out in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New Jersey.

“Families deserve the peace of mind to know that probationers are being held accountable for their actions without further jeopardizing the safety of probation officers or our communities,” Christie added.

The yet-to-be-enforced law created the Probation Officer Community Safety Unit, which is composed of five assigned probation officers per county with a minimum of 200 officers statewide.

These designated probation officers will be required to undergo a training course, including instruction on firearm use, and qualify annually to use a revolver or similar permitted firearm. In addition, completion of a basic course of self-defense training will be mandatory for those serving in the Community Safety Unit.

Probation officers are peace officers in approximately 40 states, and are permitted to carry a firearm in 31 states. New Jersey-based federal probation officers are permitted to carry a firearm as a reflection of federal judges deciding that it is dangerous for a these officers to perform their duties in the field.

“This law was deliberately crafted by the Legislature to ensure that only well-trained individuals are part of the Community Safety Unit,” Christie said. “Our ultimate responsibility is to the citizens of New Jersey whose safety and security would be improved if probation officers were better equipped and trained, as called for under this law.”

There are an estimated 130,000 adults and 20,000 juveniles under the supervision of probation officers and supervisors, who have average individual caseloads of 114 probationers.

Established in 1904, PANJ represents and protects the interests of more than 2,800 probation officers and supervisors from every corner of the state. The supervisors and probation officers work in 15 vicinages that cover New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005 5:21 p.m.



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