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Warren County Probation Director Seeks Body Armor For Officers

One Southern Adirondack county is beginning discussions on outfitting probation officers with bullet-proof vests.

Robert Iusi, Probation Director for Warren County, says last fall, the department began reviewing how it conducts home visits with respect to probation officers heading out into the field. The comprehensive review included probation and public safety officers, emergency services, and the input of the sherriff’s office.

Iusi said the review covered all aspects of home visits, including signing out vehicles and tracking officers, as well as communication between officers and other law enforcement officials. 

“And of course on the extreme end, how do we protect our people in the worst-case scenario, which would be [from] some type of gunshot, and we arrived at the fact that in certain instances we deal with body armor would be a good measure,” said Iusi.

Iusi said there has been a shift in the criminal landscape, which is making it more likely for a probation officer to encounter a dangerous situation when entering a home.

“Drug dealers coming in from the metropolitan areas, we have people with more mental health issues. The other aspect too, is, when you go into someone’s home you never know what you’re going into, and not only do we have to be aware of the probationers we have, but who are they associating with,” said Iusi. ‘We may know what probationer lives in the home but we may not who is also there.”

Iusi said he’s interested having the county pay for vests for the 13-15 officers on duty at any time. He said the price tag for a vest is around $775, but is interested in a grant opportunity through the U.S. Department of Jusitce that would help subsidize up to 50 percent of the armor’s cost.

Washington County’s probation department began outfitting officers with body armor in 2009. Probation Director Anthony White….

“The added measure of safety was needed and even back when we first implemented use, even before that,” said White. “Because, again, you’re walking into the unknown and it can be a potentially dangerous situation.

White said the Probation Department worked with the Washington County sheriff’s office to secure a grant to purchase the vests.

At the end of March, a wanted street gang leader from Pennsylvania was arrested in Hudson Falls after Washington County probation officers tipped off police. At the time, Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan congratulated the officers but also told the Post Star newspaper that the conversation around providing probation officers with firearms should be revisited.

In 2009, Washington County leaders rejected a proposal to arm probation officers.

Anthony White said he’s also in favor of revisiting the conversation.

“We do not carry firearms but I am in favor of allowing the probation officers to carry,” said White

The determination of what protections probation officers carry is decided by department office. There are 58 probation departments in New York, one for New York City, and 57 for each of the remaining counties.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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