WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas parole officers are asking the state to provide them with weapons and training to protect them as they interact with convicted felons, but their employer is resisting the move.
Steve Bukaty, an Overland Park attorney who represents the parole officers, said they face many of the same risks that police do and should be armed.
Parole officers deal directly with the same offenders that police put in jail, he said, “and a police officer would never think of confronting these individuals unarmed.”
“In my opinion, your parole officers are dealing with violent offenders much more than the FBI is,” Bukaty said.
Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, said there has been a lack of violence against parole officers, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/U41F9B ) reported.
“The safety of our (parole) officers . is paramount to our agency,” he said. “That’s why we have such rigorous training” for safety, including de-escalation methods.
Bukaty said two recent incidents in Wichita highlight the risks the officers face.
A couple weeks ago, a Wichita parole officer was attacked by a man who had just gotten off parole. It happened when the officer went to a home to give a routine notice to another person to report to his parole officer.
A police report on the May 12 incident said two people beat the parole officer, who was on official duty and properly identified. The officer suffered bruising and swelling on his left cheek, the report said.
In December, a man whose parole had recently ended broke out a window to get to a second-story ledge of the state parole office in Wichita. He then fell to the sidewalk as he struggled with officers who were trying to bring him in through a window.
The man, who was seeking help for substance addiction, wasn’t seriously injured, police said.
Parole officers have the option of getting a license to carry a concealed weapon, Barclay said, but the concealed-carry weapon is for their personal use and is not part of their official job function.
If a parole officer were to use a concealed-carry weapon while on duty, it would be considered a personal action, not an official one, Barclay added.
“I think it’s irresponsible . for their own safety and the safety of the community” for parole officers not to carry weapons, Bukaty said. “Whether the state wants to acknowledge it or not, it’s a dangerous profession.”
The state’s parole officers have tried through collective bargaining to get weapons but have been met with stiff resistance by the state, he said.
The main argument by the state is there isn’t enough money, Bukaty said, adding that parole officers also would need training and have to meet state qualifications.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com