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Sparky's Letter to the Editor - SC County moves to arm probation officers with guns.

Feb. 3 Readers' letters
From Mercury News readers

Posted: 02/02/2010 03:55:14 PM PST
Updated: 02/02/2010 06:03:47 PM PST

Let experts handle the social work

As your article by Karen De Sa reports (Page 1B, Jan. 31), on Thursday, members of the board of supervisors Public Safety Committee will consider a plan to arm 10 percent of its probation officers who interact with the more serious adult and juvenile offenders. At the same meeting, a report will be reviewed that recommends adding up to 30 new juvenile probation officers who will, among other things, work in middle schools to provide group counseling to children. The argument that probation officers are law enforcement personnel and need to carry weapons contradicts with the other role of counselors to "high-risk" 12-year-olds. In my 27 years working with troubled teens at Bill Wilson Center, I have seen the gradual change in local probation officers from that of part social worker to a role of mostly law enforcement. Perhaps supervision and enforcing probation should be the primary role of the department. If that is the case, then leave the social work and counseling in the schools to the experts - the nonprofit community agencies who have been working in the schools for decades. We not only have the expertise, but we can do the job for half the cost.

- Sparky Harlan, Executive Director Bill Wilson Center

To view video footage from the County Board Meeting where the motion to arm probation officers with guns was passed, click here