Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 1039).

Chairman Goodlatte: Mr. Speaker, today I rise in strong support of HR 1039, the Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017, and urge my colleagues to do the same.  I want to thank the primary author of the bill, the gentleman from Washington, Congressman Reichert for his leadership on this and many other law enforcement issues.

Under current law, a federal probation officer may arrest a probationer, or an offender on supervised release, if the officer has probable cause to believe that the offender has violated a condition of his or her probation or release. The officer may make the arrest with or without a warrant.

Unfortunately, current law does not grant probation officers arrest authority in situations where a third party attempts to physically obstruct an officer or inflict physical harm on the officer.  Despite the fact that interfering with a probation officer in the performance of his or her official duties is in itself a crime, Federal probation officers lack the authority to correct or restrain a physically-interfering third party.  In fact, a probation officer’s only course of action is to retreat from the situation.  This not only exposes these officers to a heightened risk of harm as they are not permitted to subdue the assailant, it also allows the probationer to conceal evidence that he has violated terms of his probation or supervised release, or any other criminal activity.

H.R 1039 is a reasonable and responsible remedy to this very real problem.  This bill, which has the support of the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, will protect probation officers and enhance their ability to do their job by giving them authority to arrest a third party who forcibly interferes with an officer’s performance of his or her official duties.

This bill would not give federal probation officers general arrest authority.  Rather, as noted, it grants them the very limited authority to arrest a third party who is interfering with the duties of the officer, which is already a federal crime.

I urge my colleagues to support this common-sense measure, to ensure that these dedicated men and women have the necessary authorities to undertake their duties safely and effectively.

I reserve the balance of my time.