The Short Arm of the Law

By Ian MacDougall
Full Article at

In November 2010, Steven Vargas, a federal probation officer in New York, received a call from a detective in Minnesota. Police in St. Paul had arrested 24-year-old Douglas Luke Robinette, who had confessed to producing child pornography and distributing it via email. He had shared some of that porn (Robinette's computer contained more than 18,000 images and 900 videos) with someone he knew only by an email address: Eight months earlier, the man with that address, Anthony Brooks, had walked out of a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan to begin a 10-year probation sentence for possessing child pornography.

The judiciary employs nearly 6,000 probation and pretrial services officers. Unlike most law enforcement officers, they police an already-identified population of accused or convicted felons. While most of them are no danger to society, a subset - like Anthony Brooks or violent offenders - pose a significant threat. And their numbers are rising. A steady wave of convicts released from federal prison has flooded the probation system in recent years - with more than 6,000 probationers added between 2010 and 2012 - and court officials expect that trend to continue in the foreseeable future. At the same time, policymakers on Capitol Hill have left federal probation offices with less and less money each year to pay for staff and programs needed to monitor this swelling population.

"I think we're at the bare bone," said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, the Southern District of New York's chief probation officer. "I'm going to have to take any resources I have next year and start trying to replace officers."

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Trends in U.S. Corrections

The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails - a 500% increase over the last forty years. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety.

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Inside This Issue

  • Executive Board Contact Information
  • False Liens and Threats Against U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Officers
  • Upcoming FPPOA Elections
  • Police Unity Tour
  • Upcoming FPPOA Elections
  • FPPOA Mourns the Loss of Phil J. Bigger
  • FPPOA Awards and Scholarships

Budget cuts straining federal probation officers

Source: Tampa Bay Tribune

TAMPA — As Congress prepares to debate continued sequestration of the federal budget, court officials say cuts to their budgets have already jeopardized public safety and further expected budget slashing will make things worse.

Probation and pretrial services officials, who are responsible for tracking people in the community who are accused and convicted of federal crimes, say they have had to scale back on testing and treatment and are struggling to provide necessary checks.

Chief Judge Anne C. Conway joined 86 other chief federal judges in writing Vice President Joe Biden about their concerns over the effects of sequestration on the courts, including in probation and pretrial services. ”Our current staffing level is the lowest has been since 1999 despite significant workload growth during this same period of time,” the letter says.

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New Membership Benefits for FPPOA Members

FPPOA is pleased to announce membership discounts at the following online stores.

GiftTree is pleased to offer members 15% off of most products. GiftTree specializes in unique gifts with a wide assortment of gourmet gift baskets, flowers, personalized gifts and much more. Go to to use our discount.

Mrs. Fields has also offered our members a 15% discount. Go to or call 1.800.Cookies to use this discount. (It is not valid in stores.)

And FTD has also provided FPPOA members a 15% discount as well. Log onto our website for the link to this offer. In order to take advantage of these offers, you must be a member.

All members can logon to the FPPOA website at to obtain the discount code from the Membership/Benefits page.

False Liens and Threats against U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Officers

During FPPOA's visit with Assistant Director Matt Rowland in May, National President Karin Storm and Northeast Regional President Craig Penet discussed the protection of probation and pretrial officers, specifically as it relates to the filing of false liens and threats. Assistant Director Rowland provided FPPOA with the following information, to pass along to all in the system.

At its March 2000 session, the Judicial Conference adopted the Criminal Law Committee's recommendation to seek legislation that would create a new federal offense for harassing or intimidating a federal official, including a judicial officer, with respect to the performance of official duties, including filing a lien on the real or personal property of that government official.

On January 8, 2008, the Court Security Act of 2007 (Pub. L. No. 110-177) was enacted. Among other provisions, the Act created a new federal offense, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1521, which made it unlawful to file, attempt to file, or conspire to file, in any public record or in any private record which is generally available to the public, any false lien or encumbrance against the real or personal property of any government official on account of the performance of official duties by that individual, knowing or having reason to know that such lien or encumbrance is false or contains any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation. The offense is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both.

The AO has prepared guidance on what to do if a false lien is filed (the guidance was directed at judges, but is applicable to any judiciary official against whom a false lien is filed):

Also, the AO produced a short video (again intended for judges, but the advice is applicable to any judiciary official targeted by a false lien) that describes the steps to take when a false lien has been filed.

Bicycle ride in honor of fallen officers

On May 1, 2013, Thomas Plumbley will be joining approximately 40 other law enforcement officers and survivors in a 1000 mile bicycle ride from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Brunswick, Georgia to Washington, DC. We will be riding in honor of all law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2012. I will be riding in honor of Sgt Robert Warren " Bobby" Crapse, Bryan County Sheriffs Office who was killed in the line of duty on June 15, 2012. I will also be honoring USPO Tom Gahl and have designed the attached patch to honor Tom and to challenge other Probation and Pretrial Services Officers to join me next year. The official ride does not begin until May 10, 2013, in Chesapeake, Virginia, but a few of us start the ride in Brunswick, GA and meet with approximately 250 other law enforcement officers on May 10th to begin the official ride. We finish the ride in Washington, DC on May 13, 2013. As part of my commitment to this ride, I am required to raise money for Law Enforcement United. LEU in turn donates all of the proceeds to Concerns of Police Survivors and the Officer Down Memorial Page. Both of these organizations support the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. This will be my second time completing this ride and it is truly an honor to do this for the survivors. I am raising this money with patch sales and I am selling the patches for $10 each. I also have a few patches with Velcro backing that I am selling for $11.00.

The twelve spokes in the center of the patch represent the eleven Judicial Circuits and the AO. The three riders represent that this is a team effort.

Thank you for your support and may God Bless the families of all of our fallen officers.

If you are interested in buying a patch, please contact (912)658-5562 or send an email to

FPPOA Newsletter Editor Update

Eunice Habig, FPPOA National Treasurer has resigned. Eunice has been the National Treasurer since 2009. She has been a wonderful asset to FPPOA and she will be missed. In Eunice’s place, Leigh Swicord (Middle District of Georgia) has been appointed by the FPPOA Board as her replacement. Leigh will continue her role as the Newsletter Editor and will work in conjunction with Elizabeth "Beth" Thomas, who was also appointed by the FPPOA Board, as the Co-Newsletter Editor.

FEDS half-hour employment related consultation offered at no-cost for FPPOA Members

Effective February 1, 2013, FPPOA in conjunction with FEDS is pleased to offer all current FPPOA members one yearly half-hour consultation with an attorney on any employment related matter at no cost. This will be upon verification of your FPPOA membership status, prior to scheduling the consultation. FEDS provides professional liability insurance to the entire federal employee community. For more information about FEDS and professional liability insurance, please visit or call 866-955-FEDS.


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