Controlling officer discretion

Material Information

Controlling officer discretion a probation case study
Rico, John
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
vii, 93 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Political Science, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Political Science
Committee Chair:
Robinson, Tony
Committee Co-Chair:
Dodge, Mary
Committee Members:
Clifton, Robert


Subjects / Keywords:
Probation officers -- Case studies -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Administrative discretion -- Case studies -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Administrative discretion ( fast )
Probation officers ( fast )
Colorado ( fast )
Case studies. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Case studies ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 89-93).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by John Rico.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
66525755 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L64 2005m R52 ( lcc )

Full Text
John Rico
B.S. Criminal Justice
Metropolitan State College of Denver 1998
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science

The thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
John Rico
has been approved
f o

Rico, John (Master of Arts, Political Science)
Controlling Officer Discretion: A Probation Case Study
Thesis directed by Professor Tony Robinson
This exploratory study initially was designed to examine the
types and reasons for line officer deviancy in a metro Denver area
probation department. The research later evolved into a case study
of the over-compensation of one probation department's
organizational culture towards heavy bureaucratic controls and a
corresponding reduction in autonomy and discretion for line level
officers. The findings suggest that the over-compensation did not
stem deviant action, but rather covertly encouraged the behavior.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's
thesis. I recommend its publication.
Tony Robinson

I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Tony Robinson, for his
patience in helping me with this thesis that has spanned three years
in the Army and a deployment to Afghanistan.

List of Figures.............................................vii
1. INTRODUCTION............................................1
2. THE STATE OF PROBATION..................................6
The Normal Probation Cycle...........................7
Trends in Probation.................................14
Professionalization and Formalization.........15
Punitive and Rehabilitative Trends............22
3. METHODOLOGY............................................26
Scope of the Study.................................2 6
The Focus Groups..............................26
The Interviews................................27
4. DATA ANALYSIS..........................................30
Types of Disparate Policy Engagement................30
Reasons for Disparate Policy Engagement.............35
5. FINDINGS...............................................39
Reduced Punitive Ability............................41
Sanitizing of the Workplace Environment.......42

Client Control.
Role and Mission Confusion..........................48
Peer Approval.................................50
Lack of Organizational Mission................55
Scarce Resources: Selectivity and Manipulation......58
Formalization of Decision-Making..............60
The Paradox of Resource Management............65
6. SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.........................68
Discretion is Inherit...............................70
Actualizing the Mission Statement..................7 6
Resource Allocation.................................80
7. CONCLUSION............................................85
8 9

Figure 3.1 - Level of Service Inventory (LSI).................31
Figure 3.2 - Client Case Plan.................................31
Figure 3.3 - Client Chronological Record......................32
Figure 3.4 - Client Drug Test Screen..........................32
Figure 4.1 - Interview Subjects Admission to Case Plan
Figure 4.2 Interview Subjects Admission to Drug Testing
Figure 4.3 Interview Subjects Admission to LSI
Figure 4.4 Interview Subjects Admission to Chronological
Record Falsification.....................................34
Figure 4.5 Interview Subjects: Admission to Lying About
Figure 4.6 Interview Participants: Admission to Lying in

The author of this study was one of over twenty new probation
officers hired from August of 2000 to December of 2001 by a suburban
probation agency. At the time of this study, this agency had over
100 probation officers, thus this hiring represented a departmental
growth of approximately twenty percent within a two year period; the
delayed result of attempts to retroactively account for the county's
massive growth within the 1990s.
This author was initiated and trained alongside many other new
personnel, and was able to quickly perceive a seemingly commonly
felt frustration over differences between how the job was supposed
to be performed, as described by trainers and supervisors, and the
actions that actually lead to successful job performance, mainly
defined by the maintaining of successful control over clients.
Those that could "read between the lines" and decipher the
answers quickly adjusted into a comfortable pattern of work product
delivery by engaging in what will from this point forward be
referred to as "disparate policy engagement." This means that there
was a difference between purported and actual policy, and engaging
these difference through disparate policy engagement led some
officers to quickly become successful in their new roles. Although
this disparate policy engagement often took the form of rule-

breaking, lying, and the manipulation of client files and the
bypassing of organizational rules, it became clear, after conducting
initial research for this thesis, that, for most of these officers,
rule breaking became an attempt not to circumvent their
responsibilities, but rather to fulfill their roles as probation
officers and to help their clients improve their lives and
simultaneously protect the community.
Those who had traditionally played "by the rules," and were
not as quick to adapt to informal organizational norms seemed to
feel increasing internalized frustration and job dissatisfaction.
This frustration and job dissatisfaction also had an external
component. New hires who would ask for supervisor or management
clarification regarding perceived disparities in work processes
quickly became the subject of supervisor and management disapproval.
The organizational implication was that the disparities were known
about at the administrative level, and that these particular new
hires were violating yet another unofficial norm by verbally asking
for clarification, thus illuminating and focusing attention on what
which was supposed to remain unspoken and unclear. It was apparent
that this was an organization in conflict with itself.
This project was born as an exploratory case study of one
organization's line officer deviance. Through individualized
interviews with probation officers and focus groups, I was able to
discern a list of both the reasons for disparate policy engagement
and the types of deviance being committed.

The various types of disparate policy engagement were
described by officers as attempts to fulfill what they perceived
their mission in the community to be, and to fulfill what they
perceived was their duty as officers tasked with the supervision of
criminal offenders. The underlying cause of disparate policy
engagement is that many of the stated reasons for disparate policy
engagement were that many officers felt that official agency
policies and mandates worked against their perceived mission and
The first problematic mandate that line-officers felt they had
to respond to was the reduction in officers' ability to be punitive.
The agency, in an attempt to exert a control over limited jail
resources and to re-fashion itself in a rehabilitative model,
reduced the authority of its officers to be punitive. In doing so,
the agency perhaps contributed to client failure and thereby
compounded the difficulties in trying to fashion itself as a
rehabilitative based agency.
The second recurring problematic theme was a fundamental
confusion over role and identity. That is, in what ways did this
agency function as and play the traditional role of a law
enforcement agency, and in what ways did this organization function
as a new rehabilitative based social work organization? This is a
problem which is compounded for a community corrections branch of
law enforcement such as probation where their task is not just to
enforce laws, but also to play social worker, job counselor, drug

counselor, and therapist. The results show that although the
organization billed itself as being "progressive" and
"rehabilitative" based, the lack of adequate resources to play this
role, along with external pressures to act in a traditional law
enforcement role, and the lack of any coherent internal
organizational mission, contributed to officer confusion on how to
behave, and also may have facilitated client failure.
Finally, the third recurring problematic theme was the lack of
funding and resources that are typically found in almost all
government agencies. Organizational attempts to maximize the use of
existing resources by exerting internal controls over their use
indirectly, and ironically, contributed to their scarcity and helped
to facilitate disparate policy engagement.
All of these reasons for disparate policy engagement speak to
a larger issue, the conflict between bureaucracy versus professional
artistry. That is the extent to which an organization allows
officers to follow their professional opinions and exercise the
discretion normally attributed to statutory peace officers versus
the extent to which an organization forces adherence to formalized
models of decision-making, client assessments, and resource
This study presents the findings of interviews and focus
groups and discusses how the three thematic problems discussed above
contributed to line officer deviancy, and will demonstrate how these
problems were intensified under an organization overly focused on

bureaucratic oversight and strict adhesion to rules. This study
concludes with recommendations for how the organization could regain
balance within its own culture and help to alleviate the reasons
officers violate rules by considering the virtue of creating a more
"value-driven" organization that rests on the professional judgments
of its officers, common values, principles, and organizational
goals, rather than relying on formal rules, formalized decision-
making, and formulaic review processes.

This section has been included to allow readers who are
unfamiliar with probation services a brief overview of the state of
probation within America today by briefly discussing the normative
path of both the probationer and the probation officer, then by
discussing historical ideological trends within probation work.
By including this section, the subsequent terminology and
discussions regarding specific probation practices that will follow
in latter chapters of this study will be more clear understandable.
In the historical analysis of the evolution of the
prison, the nature of punishment is becoming more subtle
and "gentle." Foucault suggested that social control
has a dual nature and that the real power that punishes
is hidden, and that societies may eventually be composed
of "punitive cells" in which sentencing rituals are
administered through hundreds of "tiny theaters of
punishment." Cohen and Scull predicted a move toward
more inclusive community control processes and away from
more exclusive institutional control structures. And
Marx suggested that the larger proportions of citizenry
are being placed under government control in subtler,
less visible ways, such as community based supervision
programs...the future is here.
-qtd. By Wesley Johnson (1994: 42)

The Normal Probation Cycle
Mark Jones (1997: 38), a criminologist, offers a succinct
definition of probation:
The basic rationale of probation is that society
is willing to take a chance on offenders who are
able to conform to its rules. Probationers are
allowed to remain in the community as long as they
adhere to the court-ordered conditions of release.
If they violate the conditions of release, which
constitutes their contract with society, probation
may be revoked and they may be subsequently
As Jones suggests, probation has typically been a program designed
for low-risk offenders who could remain in the community through the
utilization of offense-based services and therapy. In theory, the
idea is that certain offenders are sentenced to probation where they
will receive guidance and supervision, be put into education and job
training programs, be offered treatment for substance abuse, and be
monitored as they make amends to society and those who were
victimized by their actions through service to the community and
restitution payments.
A typical course of probation supervision involves the
assessment of clients with a questionnaire classification matrix
(called the L.S.I. or Level of Service Inventory in the Colorado
probation system.) This, in turn, provides supervision and contact
levels for office visits, home visits, employment verifications and
visits, and (for juveniles), school and parental contacts, all of
which is based on the perceived risk level of the offender as

determined by the risk assessment instrumentation.
Probation officers are law enforcement officers and are
traditionally allowed to arrest clients at any time on a revocation
of probation charge, meaning that a client violated the terms of
probation and their release to the community is being suspended.
After the arrest, the client is returned to court where they are
tried on the probation violation charge as if it were a new law
violation (such as an auto theft or assault charge.) While
traditionally there has been a reliance on officer discretion to
make this determination of when probation has been violated, there
is wide variance throughout the country on how and when officers can
utilize this authority and make an arrest based on a revocation of
By agreeing to be on probation, which is normally offered
through a plea bargain, clients agree to give up certain rights and
privileges. For example, probation clients routinely have their
homes searched by probation officers who don't need warrants. As
well, probation officers can decide by themselves, without order
from a court, to enforce curfews, to force clients to stay away from
certain individuals, and to abstain from alcohol.
Clients, on average, report once a month, and are required to
bring in verification, at that time, of residence and employment.
Throughout the course of supervision, drug tests are performed
intermittently, as well as court orders regarding specific forms of
treatment or punishment completed.

Typical court orders for a client may include the re-payment
of restitution to victims, the completion of community service
hours, and offense specific treatment such as anger management
courses, drug treatment, or perhaps a series of classes on domestic
However, the reality is that for many probationers,
supervision is largely a superficial monitoring of compliance.
Probationers know that frequent unemployment and positive drug tests
are largely acceptable, provided that, at some point during their
probation period, they conform to court expectations. This
compliance usually occurs right near the end of their probation term
so that they can be successfully terminated, only to return to
previous behaviors as soon as they are released.
Joan Pertersilia (1998: 41) sums up the modern state of
probation with:
As a result of inadequate funding, probation often
means freedom from supervision. Offenders in
large urban areas are often assigned to a
probation officer's hundreds-plus caseload, where
meetings occur at most once a month, and there is
little monitoring of employment or treatment
programs. As long as no re-arrest occurs,
offenders can successfully complete probation
whether or not conditions have been fully met or
court fees paid. Such supervision not only makes
a mockery of the justice system, but also leaves
many serious offenders unsupervised.
The scarcity of legitimate treatment facilities for drug
addiction and psychological problems adds to the problem, with
probation having precious few beds in each of these facilities to

which to assign clients. Many of the available treatment options
are of marginal therapeutic value and actually have been found to
facilitate client failure through their grouping of similarly
addicted individuals into new social networks. And, when funding is
not available to put offenders in classes or treatment, the offender
is usually burdened with the cost of the treatment.1
Sanctioning probationers for failing to meet standards is
often a delicate act with many counties across the nation typically
encountering problems with unavailable jail space. Within the
Denver Metro area, an officer's ability to sanction clients with the
threat of jail for refusing to comply with probation is often on a
"first come, first serve" basis. This means that available space in
the county jail largely determines whether or not an officer can
"revoke" their clients at the moment when it is perhaps most
Probation has become institutionalized within the American
criminal justice system as an integral component in the daily
dispersal of justice within America. Malcolm Feeley did an
extensive 1992 examination of courts across America in his lauded
effort The Process is the Punishment, and found that, "Courts have
increasingly fewer options, and probation is the de-facto sentence
of choice" (170). This institutionalization did not derive out of
1 As will be noted later in the thesis, often these attempts to "help
the client" only help facilitate client failure through their
inability to pay for or find transportation to these new

admiration for probation's more progressive historical tendencies,
but rather out of a need for fiscal conservancy.
Probation has become the first stop in the criminal justice
system for all but the most violent offenders. With the number of
persons receiving a felony and only being sentenced to probation
being an increasing trend within the system.2 Presently, probation
accounts for three out of every four individuals involved with
community corrections in the nation, with the Bureau of Justice
Statistics reporting a total of over three million adults under
local, state, or Federal supervision.
Despite supervising more offenders than any other institution,
probation receives less than 10% of government expenditures for
corrections across the nation. While the average prison inmate
costs about $22,000 per year to incarcerate, the average probationer
costs only $300 per year to supervise. Probation accounts for 40-
50% of all new prisoner in-takes into the prison system through the
revocation of the probation status of failed clients.3 Probation
administrators argue that even modest increases in expenditures
earmarked towards probation could have vast back-end savings if
prison commitments from probation could even be slightly reduced.
Consequently, probation advocates have found themselves often at
odds with prison industry advocates within state legislatures across
the country. This lack of funding and available resources will be
2 For felonization of probation, see Wesley Johnson (1994).
3 For probation stats, see Pertersilia (1998).

discussed in more in-depth in the "Findings" chapter as one of the
primary causes for disparate policy engagement.
The lack of funding and the over reliance on probation as a
warehouse for classifying clients to alleviate prison and county
jail populations has resulted in a view by many criminologists and
correctional officials that probation, in its current incarnation,
has little effect on future recidivism in regards to its supervised
clients and is largely ineffective.4 An intensive study of probation
practices in Coles County, Illinois by William Benedict (1997) found
statistics typical of probation recidivism rates across the country.
Out of 79,000 studied probationers, 43% were re-arrested for a
felony within three years of their successful termination from
probation, with the number re-arrested for a misdemeanor or some
type of other offense within three years going up to almost 60%.
The public has become overly familiar with newspaper headlines about
a probationer or parolee who has, despite being under probation
supervision, gone on to commit some new highly publicized crime.
And most studies show that the public has little faith in the
effectiveness of probation departments to effectively control
criminals. As Longmire states: "According to the data presented in
these studies, one would conclude that people in general, regardless
of age, ethnicity, gender, education or household income appear to
be relatively dissatisfied with their local agencies" (1998: 20).5
4 For probation statistics, see Petersilia (1998).
5 For ineffectiveness of probation, also see Osborne and Gaebler

The frequent exposure to client failure has caused probation
officers to have a notoriously high burnout rate, having both the
highest turnover rate, and the highest job dissatisfaction rate of
all other professionals within both law enforcement and corrections,
above both police officers and prison guards.6 As Mark Jones (1997:
32) states:
What about probation officers who are inclined to
act according to a certain type but are prevented
by their current work environment from doing so?
For example, officers may be inclined towards the
welfare/therapeutic model. However, because of
the constraints of large caseloads, lack of
resources and agency expectations, they are
prevented from being more social work oriented
with their clients. Similarly, punitive officers
may want to impose harsh penalties on probationers
to keep them in line but are prevented from doing
so because of judge's lack of available jail
This paradigm has resulted in the infamous model of the "indifferent
probation officer," the one who, as Mark Jones writes, see the
greatest good in, "...inactivity and avoidance of work. They merely
manage their caseloads, viewing their work as meaningless" (28).
This is a condition that many probation officers in the county being
studied within this paper, particularly older ones, have found
themselves within.
(1992), Ciesliowski (1992), Gray (2001), Corbet (1999), Mark Jones
(1997), and Wesley Jones (1994).
6 For probation officer burnout, see Whitehead (2000).

Trends in Probation
Probation's roots can be discovered in the 17th century with
the church in England where the privileged caste could earn
repentance back into the grace of God after some deviant action, but
only through a probationary period of submission to the church.
This period of "repentance" quickly found its way into the courts,
which were often merged with the administration of the papacy.
Making its way to the new world, probation became a normative form
of punishment in the colonies, most often utilized by small
communities, such as the Quakers, who had come to escape religious
persecution, and had progressive views that often also coincided
with abolitionist beliefs. They believed that the offender, the
criminal, and the deviant needed to be punished, but also to be
saved. Since this time, probation has changed forms numerous times
and has gone underground for long periods of American history as
cyclical popular opinion on concepts such as rehabilitation brought
the practice in and out of U.S. courtrooms.7 Throughout the 20th
century, probation went through two fundamental paradigms shifts
that dramatically altered the framework for perceiving the role of
probation work, and affected the way in which the job was performed.
The first paradigm shift regards the nature of officer
discretion and authority as viewed through the lenses of
professionalization and formalization. The professionalization of
probation resulted not only in a more educated and highly trained
7 For probation history, see Abadinsky (1992) and Carney (1987).

work force of probation and corrections officers, but also in an
organizational trend towards increased oversight, bureaucratic
controls, and institutional regulations. However,
professionalization is thought by many to have become what is
referred to as formalization, or an "over-professionalization" of
the work environment that has moved beyond a healthy control over
police corruption, and is marked more by such overly strict controls
binding officers' professional judgment that they become unable to
do that which they have been trained to do.
The second paradigm shift regards the changing ideological
stance of probation as an institution from rehabilitative to
punitive and back to rehabilitative.
Professionalization & Formalization
The professional model of organization is the cousin of the
bureaucratic model that emphasizes rules, regulations, and heavy
controls over employees and work product. Probation itself has
never been on the forefront of public perceptions in regards to
criminal justice. Instead, probation departments tend to follow the
trends of the more visible front-line police departments.
Consequently, it could be stated that this professionalization came
about simply as a by-product of being a criminal justice
organization, and therefore structured like other criminal justice
organizations. Since the professionalization of probation is
irrevocably linked to that of police departments, to fully

understand the rise of the professionalized bureaucratic model, it
is necessary to discuss the professionalization of the police.
At the beginning of the 20th century, police departments were
normatively corrupt and engaged in all sorts of dubious practices
such as nepotism and favoritism:
Pointing to the large number of arrests that were
dropped short of prosecution, critiques of the
criminal justice system called on the prosecutor
to account for the failure to prosecute or the
police to explain the absence of adequate grounds
to support a prosecution. More often, however,
the condemnation alleged violations of civil
liberties. The practice of arresting specific
categories of persons engaged in offensive
behavior had become so wholesale in some
jurisdictions that no effort was made to require
probable cause before an arrest was made. The
acknowledged objective was simply to harass those
arrested (Ohlin 1993: 50).
The "beat" cop and constable in the last decades of the 19th
century was, in the early parts of the 20th century coming into
conflict with a society that was changing, and, in response,
requiring the police to adapt as well. Technological innovations
such as the automobile, the radio, and the telephone were changing
the way that law enforcement departments organized themselves. And
the state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court were
increasingly protecting the civil liberties of individuals.
August Vollomer was one of the first vocal proponents of
professionalizing police departments, proposing such reforms as
having basic regulations that would inform a line-level officer's
decision-making processes, and having institutional checks in place,

within departments, to control for such things as beating
confessions out of suspects, and in ensuring the safe handling of
prisoners, evidence, and criminals:
...he identified and openly struggled with many of
the complexities in policing: the conflicts
within the police role and the sensitive nature of
that role, the use and limitations of the criminal
law, the interdependence of the police and the
community, and how best to deal with he wide range
of behaviors the police are expected to handle
(Ohlin 1993: 26).
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation was created by J.
Edgar Hoover, it was built along lines that would have pleased
Vollomer, and it quickly became the de-facto model for police
professionalism. Where once justice had been meted out on an
individualized basis, which allowed for much corruption and
favoritism, there were now controls over the delivery of justice and
police services. All citizens would be treated the same. The
police were withdrawn from the public sphere of sidewalks and corner
beats and they retreated into more isolated patrolling paradigm
governed by the police car. The police could be trusted because of
the high level of internal structural controls and oversight within
police departments, "Insulating state power from fallible human
choices became the number one priority of legal reform. No error or
bias could occur if officials no longer had discretion" (Howard
2001: 36).
Commensurate with professionalization (or bureaucratization?)
was the rise in officer education levels. By the 1980s, at least

within most heavily populated urban areas, many police and probation
departments required their officers to have some college and the
number of officers with degrees was rising. Police academies and
colleges and in-house training drilled into these officers the need
for the protection of civil liberties and the consequences for abuse
of authority. Although there will always be headlines about police
misconduct, for the most part, across the country by the 1980s, the
police and probation role had been professionalized both in the
character and training of its officers, and in the internal
structural controls now firmly embedded in both institutional
practice and in judicial oversight.
By the 1980's, the professionalization of law enforcement
agencies, although it resulted in more protection against corrupt
cops and practices, also had a downside. Many departments were said
to be removed from the individualized needs of certain communities.
Police departments were thought to be non-effective in many of
America's inner-city and more socially disorganized urban areas
where police still functioned largely in a bureaucratic formalized
fashion that was slow to react to problems. Centralization, "just
the facts" policing and investigation models, and an over-reliance
on patrolling via automobiles, made communities feel disenfranchised
from those charged with their very protection (Kelling & Coles:
Furthermore, police, utilizing this professionalized model,
found themselves stuck in a pattern of simply repeatedly responding

to the sources of crime, and unable or unwilling to actively engage
the community to work towards solutions to help stop the problems
that make life so difficult for many in America's more distressed
Why was the police officer, a well-intended and
concerned young person who expressed indignation
at conditions there, assigned only irregularly and
on an overtime basis to this neighborhood rather
than one of fixed permanent assignment? Probation
and parole agents are overwhelmed by their
caseloads. Police are overwhelmed by 911 calls.
And it is more efficient for all of these
professionals to operate out of centralized
facilities. But lurking behind these rationales
are professional and bureaucratic models of
performance and personal motivations that have
little to do with neighborhood safety (Kelling &
Coles 1997: 2).
Simultaneous to the full maturation of the professionalization
of police and probation, there was a concurrent theme of
formalization occurring within the larger society itself. It is
hard to find pivotal events or dates that can be stated to have
given birth to this theme, but Phillip K. Howard (2001) in his book
on formalization notes that it was born slowly sometime within the
last few decades of the 20th century, while police
professionalization was already in full swing.
Howard elaborates on this trend towards "formalization" as
something that has removed autonomy from the civic society of
government, businesses, and communities. Examples of this are
corporations and businesses that, for fear of lawsuits, have now
entangled their every step with protective meshes of waivers and

legal disclaimers, or local municipalities who take down playgrounds
for fear of lawsuits. Teachers became unable to discipline their
students. Probation officers became unable to supervise their
offenders. Federal judges became unable to sentence cases based on
merit. "Federal trial judges, facing individual defendants, feel
that the sentence mandated by the guidelines is not appropriate when
one takes into account all of the circumstances of the individual
case" (Ohlin 1993: 157).
20/20 correspondent John Stossel has written about the
American trend to control for all aspects of risk and individualized
In Houston, a woman named Carol Porter decided she
would feed poor people. She founded a charity
called Kid Care. Soon, she and her volunteers
were serving 20,000 meals a week. She said her
charity worked well because it wasn't a government
bureaucracy. "We know the people, get involved in
their lives," she told me. But then she accepted
a government grant, and with that came rules. One
demanded that every child be given a full carton
of milk. "Even though the child may not drink the
milk, I had to place it in front of them. I was
throwing sixty and seventy containers of milk in
the garbage every day!" Other rules limited what
she could serve, when she could serve it, whom she
could serve it to. Eventually she gave up (2004:
231) .
Out of the noble desire for the professional and equal
delivery of services arose a fear of litigation and excessive
standardization. And through a noble but ultimately misguided
attempt to protect everyone's rights, America has succeeded, Howard
notes, only in undermining our own ability to effectively govern

ourselves. He finds it especially interesting that the American
notion of rugged individualism, which is so highly associated with
the American character and its own history, has become something not
to be trusted, "In a fit of self-indulgence, future historians will
observe, America abandoned its self-confidence" (Howard 2001: 69).
Criminologist James Q. Wilson notes that, "Government
organizations are especially risk averse because they are caught up
in a web of constraints so complex that any change is likely to
rouse the ire of some important constituency" (1994: 69). Where
once police officers had the discretion to decide who had been
victimized and who had been the victimizer, state legislatures began
legislating mandatory arrests for both parties in many instances
such as domestic violence and assault. Zero tolerance edicts were
issued for drugs and alcohol increasing the number of situations
where officers were mandated to make an arrest. Probation and
parole officers were increasingly being given strict guidelines on
what exactly constituted a violation of supervision.
One sociologist noted the irony that this over-
professionalization of law enforcement perhaps has actually lead to
a deprofessionalization:
More recent theorists suggest that greater legal,
judicial, market, client and bureaucratic controls
weaken the professions' self-regulatory capacity
and undermine claims to autonomy, monopoly and
privilege, thereby resulting in
deprofessionalization (Roach 1992).

Punitive and Rehabilitative Trends
The dominance of a more punitive based stance in the delivery
of probation services throughout the second half of the 20th century
is most directly linked to the simultaneous increase in caseloads,
which starts to get at the fundamental problem of inadequate
resources. Many departments found themselves taking on a punitive
model of probation purely as a necessary survival technique. With
few resources available and no time with which to properly deal with
clients, probation became increasingly a police function rather than
a social work or rehabilitative one. Social workers, for example,
tend to have fifteen to twenty clients as it requires a vast amount
of additional time to intensely help clients with various therapies
and adequately monitor their compliance with programs designed to
help them. Though they are supposed to do similar intensive case
work as social workers, probation officers typically have caseloads
of anywhere from one to two hundred clients which makes it
impossible to do much more than a cursory check for new law
John Whitehead (2000: 207) notes that, "Probation officers
were changing their ideal role model from St. Augustus [the "father"
of probation], acting as avuncular advisor to Dirty Harry Callahan,
waiting for a violation to, 'Make their day!'" Older veteran
officers, who have spent most of their careers in this type of
8 See Abadinksy (1992) for probation caseload.

environment, frequently summarized their job duties with, "Trail
'em, nail 'em, and jail 'em." Their job as they saw it was to
follow probationers, wait for them to mess up, and then send them to
j ail.
A second reason for the rise of punitive philosophies was an
external pressure by the American public who viewed the criminal
justice system, and especially rehabilitative models of justice as
"soft on crime":
Crime rates, public fear of crime, the political
exploitation of fear, media reporting about crime
and the criminal justice system (often stressing
dramatic cases of the system misfiring, such as
the Willie Horton case) and the shift of public
values away from individualization and towards
certainty, consistency, and punishment are among
the factors that explain the increase in
formalization (Ohlin 1993: 156).
Public opinion polls have collectively informed probation and parole
agencies of their disdain for the use of their tax dollars to
attempt to improve the lives of offenders who they view as not
worthy of this type of investment:
A brief review of public opinion research in 1991
by J. Doble et al., revealed that the public
expects punishment; short-term public safety;
long-term public safety; incapacitation (in
custodial and community settings); reparation or
restoration; and prevention (Wilson 1989: 36-41).
Within the last couple of decades, most notably the 1990's,
criminal justice practitioners have attempted to, despite scarce
resources and public pressures, move away from strictly punitive

models of law enforcement and to balance their organizations with an
infused sense of more progressive or rehabilitative models of
justice. The agency studied in this paper is one of these
departments, attempting to convince itself that the role of
probation officer is more that of social worker than cop.
The most prominent new "progressive philosophy" is the
community policing model which has also come to be called problem-
oriented policing. This puts a large emphasis on expanding police
discretion so that officers can problem-solve the root causes of
crime within their communities. In addition to problem-solving,
community policing has a focus on "geographical ownership" of
neighborhoods by officers instead of having officer's randomly
respond to calls for police assistance, or having probation officers
be randomly assigned cases throughout an entire city.
George Kelling and Catherine Coles wrote their influential
book. Fixing Broken Windows in _(date), which became a clarion call
for the community policing movement. The book advanced the theory
that small symbols of disrepair, such as broken windows in a
neighborhood, lead to larger crimes as the broken windows send a
message to the community that no one cares or is in control of this
community. By focusing on small crimes, such as turnstile jumping
in New York City, Wilson and Kelling argued that police would be
more effectively able to deter more serious crimes. "Broken Windows
Policing," required officers to be able to interact with the
community in informal ways beyond the normal rules of policing

simply as a response to a clear crime, in order to cooperatively fix
the symbols of disrepair and exercise a united presence of
neighborhood control. Necessary to the successful implementation of
such a program is increased police authority and discretion,
reminiscent of the pre-professionalized era when police were largely
unsupervised in the patrols of their respective beats and knew the
local businesses and residents, the local troublemakers, and made
decisions regarding the handling of relationships between the
In a wholly separate but related vein, restorative justice is
another highly discretionary based model of justice that still
involves probation officers but is more geared towards the
judiciary. Under restorative justice models, punishment is not
always meted out by the courts, but rather by small groups of
street-level bureaucrats, such as probation officers, who engage
both the victim and the offender in small intimate settings more
akin to mediation than to a courtroom.
However, despite attempts by a few brave administrators and
criminological theorists and academics to reclaim probation's
rehabilitative ideals, problem-oriented policing, "broken windows"
policing, and restorative justice programs are still largely
reserved to "window dressing."9
9 See Mark Pogrebin (2000) .

Scope of the Study
This study is composed of grounded theory/qualitative research
which took the form of both focus groups and open-ended semi-
structured interviews.
In regards to exploring the types and reasons for disparate
policy engagement, it should be noted that the study was not
designed to record the grievances of probation officers, only the
types of and reasons for policy disparity, although the two are
often closely inter-related.
This study is also only designed to offer insights and
recommendations for probation departments in similar situated
organizational, geographic, and demographic environments.
Generalizability is limited due to the fact that only one agency is
being studied.
The Focus Groups
The purpose of the focus groups was to provide an initial
focus of discussion for the interviews, and to ascertain the most
popular and publicized reasons for disparate policy engagement.
Types of disparate policy engagement were not discussed in the focus
groups, as I did not want officers to admit to violations in a group

of their peers where they could be consequences for admissions to
policy violations.
Two focus groups were conducted before the individual
interviews began. The focus groups varied in size and were attended
almost entirely by individuals who, at some point, offered to give
individual interviews. An unfortunate limitation of the focus
groups was that, without incentive, attendance and participation was
low. The first focus group had seven individuals attend, and the
second group had six individuals attend. As the focus groups were
not attended by as many individuals as this author had initially
hoped, they became less important than the subsequent interviews
within this paper.
The Interviews
The qualitative open-ended interviews were the primary base of
data for this study. One hour to one and a half-hour open-ended
interviews were conducted with twenty-one line-level officers and
two administrative supervisors, out of a total departmental staff of
103. There was no standardized list of formal questions, except to
loosely defer to the results from the focus groups. Again,
individuals were asked to offer their opinions on the reasons for
disparate policy engagement, but also the types of disparate policy
engagement that either they had engaged in, or knew others to be
engaging in.
I utilized a snowball method of recruitment, first conducting

interviews with those known to me through my previous work
experience, and then, in turn, asking them to refer me to
individuals whom they knew would be receptive to participating with
this study. The snowball method of recruitment, and resulting
limited number of interview subjects, was necessary because the
administration was not receptive to interview requests being
distributed to the entire department, or being conducted in an
official manner during working hours. It was stated that
individuals could participate on their own time during off-duty
hours or during scheduled work breaks.
Interview subjects signed consent forms to be interviewed and
audio cassettes of the interviews were destroyed after
transcriptions leaving only transcripts that did not identify the
individual speaking. As well, all identifying characteristics such
as age, probation team that one worked on, or office that one worked
at, were deleted so as to enforce confidentiality.
Interview participants were largely forthcoming during
interviews, as they trusted the author of this study, who was a
fellow officer. Once it was known that the project was underway,
the obtainment of interview participants became increasingly easy.
Several individuals were excluded from this study that were known to
be involved in existing grievances within the department or to be
under investigation, and it was thought that their bias would not be
generally representative of the department at large. (Although in
retrospect, as officer deviance is the core subject of this thesis,

perhaps interviewing them would have been a good idea.)
Four interviews were conducted with officers from a
neighboring probation agency, and another five interviews with
officers from a different neighboring probation agency. Initially,
the study was going to be comparative in nature, but without having
a sponsor, or a "foot in the door," it became increasingly difficult
to obtain interviews within these other agencies. As such, it was
necessary to remove a comparative departmental focus from this

Types of Disparate Policy Engagement
The range of disparate policy engagement behaviors was
considerably diverse, but as officers were mostly involved in the
same work processes, certain widespread forms became normalized in
the work place. These were the behaviors that the new officers were
trained in as "alternatives" to the traditional official ways of
conducting business.
The most common form of disparate policy engagement was
falsification of the ICON computer system which recorded all client
records. The ICON computer system is utilized by both the court and
probation systems in Colorado and maintains not only all court
records and judicial proceedings, but also all probation records.
There are four primary uses within probation for the ICON computer
system and four ways in which it can be manipulated. There is the
LSI (Figure 3.1), which offers initial risk assessments of clients.
There is the case plan (Figure 3.2), which provides an officer's
"daytimer" or scheduled meetings and settings for the case. There
is the chronological record (Figure 3.3), which records the actual
day to day movement and actions on the case. And, finally, there is
the drug test screen (Figure 3.4), which records a client's history
of drug tests.

culajkauu idumu urratuaK iiKVISb UK S&RVICB INVENTORY
Status: Supr Lvl: MAX Prob Po/Role: JLR JSP Ale PO/Role:
ML#: 000000038264581
Initial Assessment: N Interviewer: JLR Date Assessed: 1/04/2002
Criminal History Family Problems
1. Three or more present offenses l 39. Relations with mother
Number 003 Rater Box
2. Current offence during supervision l 40. Relations with father
3. Charged/adjudicated: Weapons offence 0 Rater Box
4. Charged/adjudicated: Vaadalian 0 41. Poor relations with siblings
5. Charged/adjudicated: Burglary 0 42. Parental supervision
6. Charged/adjudicated: Assault/violence 1 Rater Box
7. Charged/adjudicated: Armed Robbery 0 43. Often away from home
8. Charged/adjudicated: Trespassing 1 44. Ha3 been in out-of-home placement
9. Charged/adjudicated: Shoplifting 0 45. sibling have been in group home
10. Charged/adjudicated: Sexual Offence 0 46. Criminal history: father, mother, sibs
11. Charged/adjudicated: Theft 1 47. Psychiatric history: father, mother, sibs
12. Charged/adjudicated: possession of stolen 0 48. Substance abuse: father, mother, sibs
13. Charged/adjudicated: ?orgery/?raud 0 49. Receives social assistance
14. Prob/parole Revocation 1 50. Victim of physical abuse
Number 002 witnessed family violence
15. Two or more prior adjudications 1 51. Sexual abuse
Number 002 52. Primary raised in a single parent home
16. Arrested under age of 16 1 53. Chaotic family
Age 015 Rater Box
17. Prior sentenced incarceration 000 Family subtotal 09 of 15 60.c%
Incarcerated, not sentenced 0 Peer relation problems
Total time incarcerated (days) Criminal subtotal 08 of 17 s 47.0% Substance abuse 007 54. Could make better use of time Rater Box 55. No pro-social interest 56. Peers outside age ranee
Figure 3.1 Level of Service Inventory (LSI)
_vl : MAX Prb PO/Ri : JLR
2/11/2002 Asmt : YLSI
ea: E2EM Education Employment. Rati
Start Completec
1/01/2001 3/01/2CC-2
1/01/2001 3/01/2CC2
rotlem Area: FMMR Family Martial Ratio: 60.0 Priority: 2
Steps To Resolve Start Completed
roblem Area: PEER Peer Relation Problems Rat
Steps To Resolve
roblem Area. SUBA Substance Abuse Ratio: 50.0 Priority: 5
Steos To Resolve Starr. Completed
roblem Area: CRIM Criminal History
Steps To Resolve
Defendant/Juvenlie: ________________
Probation Officer:
Ratio: 4/.0 Priority: 6
Start Completed
Date :
Date :
Figure 3.2 Client Case Plan

c^< *:tn Client Narratives u/
*ED Prb P0/R1: JLR JSP Ale PO/Rl:
ML* :
User : 3APQ1 J_R
Tyjp* ptix-s- ;-tss Enter.
"a*~ 3s-pd3te/Ccntact 4*Delete S = Display E3-^erss Eid
fiai 1BMTT I1, I Ccmgwinication/Contact Types____________________________~ _________
____ SwflEPki'SCIs C*
____ 3j*m, =::= = c-,tc
____ 2/2BL- = :S= ?r.PG,RV
2 -a I . r 11 = OTST
ext : -VE THC
5 .-'iS - = 11 = " F n PGiRV
-S=i dd Narrative F12=Cancel Fl?=Chg Selection F21=Select All
Figure 3.3 Client Chronological Record
2=Change 4=Delete 5 =Display Drua Test 23=f1erge Results and Levels
, £fii T.HC. . C0.C.N. AH.P.H B.A.R.B, .O.P.I.A.
12/04/01 N 0L X X X X
11/21/01 N 0L X X x
10/30/01 RERF P 450 X X A
' 1/02/01 INRF P 225 X X X
6/24/01 WARN P 450 N 0L X X A
Figure 3.4 Client Drug Test Screen
As shown in the charts below, falsification of client records
of some type became an extremely normalized process that was
practiced by nearly everyone, certain behaviors being more prominent
than others. For instance, falsification of the chronological

records was so normalized that 85% of the interview subjects
admitted to frequent falsification. The numbers for actual
falsification in each section are most likely higher than the
interviews suggest, however, as there were likely a number of
interview subjects who were reluctant to admit to actions that could
get them in trouble.
Figure 4.1: Interview Subjects Admission to Case
Plan Falsification
oo% mi4%
Never Falsify
Rare Falsification
Figure 4.2: Interview Subjects Admission to Drug Testing Falsification
a 10%
rrAa/ B Never Falsified
L B Rare Falsification
37% Occasional Falsification
24% Frequent Falsification
Figure 4.3: Interview Subjects Admission to LSI
B Never Falsified j
Rare Falsification j j
Occasional Falsification I i
Frequent Falsification j I

Figure 4.4: Interview Subjects Admission to
Chronological Record Falsification
: Q0%
| ,-3%
Never Falsified
Rare Falsification
Occasional Falsification
Frequent Falsification
The second most prevalent forms of disparate policy engagement
by officers (after the manipulation of the official ICON record) was
lying to probation officials about their location in the field
during client checks, and, interestingly, lying in court. Lying in
court was often an attempt to circumvent the department and the
state's mandatory policies where officers were required to send
clients back to court for certain behaviors such as too many
positive drug tests, even in situations where the drug in question
was a substance, such as Marijuana, that was perceived to be
harmless by the probation officer. In these situations, officers
would downplay the offender's behavior in court, or, conversely, if
they had been unable to properly punish the offender throughout most
of his probation history, make his behavior appear worse to the
court in hopes of a stricter sentence.

Figure 4.5: Interview Subjects: Admission to Lying About
19% 15%
B Never Lied
B Rare Lying
Occasional Lying
Frequent Lying
Figure 4.6: interview Participants: Admission to Lying in Court
6% 0% ________________________________________________________________
Q Never Lied
B Rare Lying
Occasional Lying
Frequent Lying
Reasons for Disparate Policy Engagement
The following is a composite list formed from the focus groups
and the interviews of the top ten reasons for disparate policy
Low Morale (Low morale leads to an indifference to
correctly following policy.)
Role Conflict (There was role conflict over whether or not
employees were supposed to be probation officers and level

three peace officers, or simply to be case managers, paper
pushers, and social workers.)
Mission Conflict (The organization was conflicted about its
mission which lead to officers making their own decisions
regarding policy implementation.)
Budgetary Constraints (Money constraints forced officers
into policy violations in order to distribute existing
resources to offenders who they predicted would be more
likely to succeed.)
Excessive Regulations (The organization had an excessive
amount of regulations which decreased officer discretion
and limited officers' own perceived effectiveness in case
Drug Testing Policy (The organization's failed mandated
drug treatment for clients after two positive urinalysis
was a policy so faulty that it forced officers to almost
perpetually violate it.)
Sanitized Work Environment (The creation of a work
environment which officers felt resulted in over-protection
against liability and their inability to react to
probationer violations due to their restricted discretion
and authority.)
Public Expectation (The feeling by officers that they were
not living up to public expectations in their ability to
exert control over their clients and to actively interact

with the community. This was most often demonstrated
through contacts with victims, and with other agencies,
such as drug rehabilitation agencies, who expected
probation officers to be able to offer more help in
controlling the behaviors of their shared clientele.)
Time Constraints (Large caseloads forced officers to
violate policy in order to create the time necessary to
effectively manage their caseloads.)
No Direct Supervision (The organization monitored employee
compliance through secondary instrumentation resulting in
the temptation for frequent fabrication of job performance
measurements to create more personal time and freedom
within the job.)
When this data was broken down by team membership and tenure
within the department, patterns began to appear. Younger officers
routinely listed time and budget constraints as more important,
whereas tenured officers had seemingly adapted long ago to those
restraints as a fact of probation life and tended to emphasize
structural and organizational conflict as more important. Trends
were also observable within team membership, for instance juvenile
team members were more likely to state that lack of supervision was
a problem, which makes sense considering that they have the largest
team membership, with 25 officers, and their supervisor has the
least amount of time for one-on-one supervision.

Each of the stated reasons for disparate policy engagement can
be summarized under several key themes. The first theme is the lack
or an officer's ability to be punitive. This was the underlying
issue for both "Excessive Regulations" and "Sanitized Work," both of
which officers felt were attempts by the agency to actively limit
their statutory authority as peace officers.
The second theme was officers' confusion regarding the role
and mission of the agency, and their own role within the agency.
"Role Conflict" and "Mission Conflict" have an obvious connection.
Each of these relates to the theme of identity conflict, and the
question of whether or not probation officers are first and foremost
cops and law enforcement officers or social workers. Also put under
this heading was "Public Expectation," as the perceptions of the
role that the public thought probation was to play added to their
role confusion.
The third theme was the endemic problem of inadequate
resources that is faced by almost all government agencies and
organizations. Both "Budgetary Constraints" and "Time Constraints"
will be discussed in this section. And, finally, the "Drug Testing
Policy" will be discussed in this section as it relates directly to
officers attempting to manipulate the system in order to free up

A July 5, 1997 article in the Rocky Mountain News detailed the
stresses of probation work in a spotlight piece on Adams County
'We've been losing ground for 10 years,' said Vern
Fogg, administrator of Colorado's Office of
Probation Services. 'Our caseload has increased
but our funding has not kept up' (Okeefe 1997).
Three years later, as a new probation officer, I noticed a
department rife with officers struggling not to lose ground, and
accomplishing this often by circumventing departmental policies.
Before I arrived in the department, there had been several
cases with a high internal departmental profile where the officers
had been found to have been managing dangerous offenders with
minimal supervision. A few other clients had seemed to have
disappeared from probation supervision for several months on end
without their probation officer noticing. Some officers had been
caught using their badges in unprofessional ways, pulling people
over in traffic that had upset them, and getting into clubs in
Denver for free. Another officer was caught stealing the
restitution payments of his probationers that were supposed to be
applied towards their court cases. Additionally, officers were

found to be lying about the number of maximum risk cases they had so
that they would be given fewer new clients. Simultaneously, there
was less money every year for rehabilitative programs and what
seemed an increasing lack of available jail space and officer
caseloads were growing.
The county studied within this paper responded to both the
liability threats and diminishing resources by implementing strict
formalized decision-making processes designed to protect resources,
and sanitizing the work-place in an attempt to protect against
liability. In the process they eliminated many traditional powers
granted to probation officers, such as the ability to make on-the-
spot arrests for revocations. Officer discretion to interpret risk
assessment matrix (LSI) results was eliminated in favor of strict
adherence to assessment results. Additional other oversights and
committees were required for normalized decisions that officers had
previously made regarding their own cases. Officers were no longer
allowed to work outside of 8am to 5pm office hours. Officers were
restricted in their field visits, in where they could visit, and
during what hours they were allowed to be out in the field--where
once officers had had almost complete autonomy to be "in the field."
The resulting increase in bureaucratization, however, only
seemed to result in increased instances of disparate policy
engagement on the behalf of officers. As one officer stated:
"Their rules are making it difficult for us to work at all." The
organization appeared to be locked in a cycle of destructive

behaviors with its own employees with the issue of how much
"discretion" line-level officers should be allowed to have being at
the focal point of the battle.
Officers felt, however, that they were not sabotaging agency
operations, and that the administration was doing that itself
through the very rules they created to attempt to control
discretion. Officers felt that they were attempting to keep the
agency functioning and able to maintain some modicum of success in
regards to agency mission and the only way to do this was through
disparate policy engagement.
Reduced Punitive Ability
It perhaps seems counter-intuitive to offer an ability to
officers to be punitive when, as an agency, you're attempting to be
rehabilitative. Interestingly, most officers described their
natural ideological inclination as towards rehabilitative rather
than punitive ideals. As one officer stated:
If I didn't want to help people and deal with
people I would've joined the police department
where I could respond to some call, arrest them,
and then be done with it.
The agency being studied implemented two policies which
officers felt actually only facilitated client failure.
First, the agency sanitized the work-place, which was mostly
defined by its transition to business hours, and its

withdrawing of officers from the field. Second, the agency
removed the "sacred cow" of probation officers' power, the
ability to make their own decision when to revoke clients.
What all officers interviewed noted was that to be
effective in any type of role which is primarily defined by
attempted control over another person's behavior, there needs
to be a variety of responses that one can deploy depending on
the situation. Officers weren't bothered by the idea that the
department wanted to curb the number of revocations, or
emphasize alternatives to incarceration, rather they were
bothered that the decision to revoke had been entirely removed
and placed in the hands of a committee, leaving them no
options in the particular situations where they felt
alternatives to incarceration was not a viable solution to a
client's behavioral problems.
Similarly, officers were often able to articulate the
concerns of the agency in their decision to withdraw officers
from the field and retreat to banker's hours, but were only
concerned that there was so little flexibility within this
policy for exigent circumstances.
Sanitizing of the Work-Place Environment
As the agency in question started to view themselves as a
social work agency, they withdrew officers from the field and
imposed banking hours on the department. This frustrated many

officers though, who, although not minding the rehabilitative focus,
still dealt with the daily reality that they were a criminal justice
organization tasked with the supervision of individuals who had
committed crimes. As one officer stated:
It's very very peculiar [laughs], very peculiar.
We deal with criminals, we monitor criminals,
we're a law enforcement agency, so you think
there's a certain amount of risk there you know,
inherit in the job, but it's like they want to
believe that we can somehow be brought down to the
risk level of some veteran's administration
department that files paperwork and medical
Previously, the office would stay open until seven or eight
p.m. each night, and officers could even check on clients on their
own time after work, at midnight if they wanted to; now officers
were expected to see all clients between eight in the morning and
five o'clock in the evening. This was a move that almost all
officers felt made it impossible for them to successfully complete
their duties:
We've got clients who we're praying...praying to God
will just get a job, but then we've got to ask
them to somehow be able to take off in the middle
of the day to see us, too. These guys aren't
working professional jobs, it's not like it's you
or me where we could just go during the day if we
had to...we're setting them up for failure.
The real danger of this policy, many officers felt, was the
covert facilitation of client failure that it suggested. Malcom M.
Feeley (1992) in his book, The Process is the Punishment, presented

the "hidden costs" to defendants in our judicial system. While the
external easily visible cost might be 30 days in jail, the hidden
cost is that the client, who is likely poor, has also lost his/her
job, and consequently his/her apartment. These collateral costs,
make a probationer more likely to recidivate. The same is true for
probation when it becomes more sanitized in an attempt to control
for risk and requires the offenders to make up the lost difference.
Many clients who were barely managing to maintain jobs were
not only challenged to keep their job (a requirement of probation),
but also to pay all associated costs with their supervision, and now
to attend probation meetings during banker business hours, something
that if they failed to do, could also get them a probation
revocation, or at least, an extended probation. One interviewee
commented: "Do you know how many bus passes I give out every month,
but now that we're only open until 5, that means that every week
they have to take off a half day of work to get here by 5 on the
bus!" As Lipsky's (1980) work documents, "Agencies that keep
bankers' hours impose monetary costs on working people who cannot
appear without losing wages" (89).
One interviewee concurred with the idea of this policy
facilitating client failure stating:
If I get a call at 4:30 from someone on a Friday
afternoon, how am I supposed to give immediate
sanctions if I have to wait until Monday. Like
Monday we have a holiday, what then, wait until
Tuesday morning and only then if I can find them?

Or, as another officer stated:
"You can't work four 10's, you can
only work five 8's...there's no flexibility at all, but my clients
don't exist in that world."
Soon many new officers realized that to properly check on
their client's behavior, they would have to visit their clients
after hours. Yet, this county restricted the ability of officers to
check on clients after hours for liability concerns and purported
safety reasons. New officers would question supervisors on this
discrepancy and would receive, as one officer states, "Meaningless
drivel as a response." Officers who checked on their client after
hours, in clear violation of policy, were rewarded for maintaining
good tabs on their clients.
Comparative research on the organization of probation
departments that are rigid and removed from going out into the
public and departments that are more flexible and offer their
officers the autonomy (usually based in a system of values) to work
out in the community has shown that the community bound departments
are extremely more effective in combating and controlling the
recidivism of their clients. "The President's Crime Commission has
noted that for probation to be effective, it is necessary for
community involvement" (Carney 1987: 95). Mark Jones also found in
a study of North Carolina probation departments that, "PO's need to
get out into the community" (1997: 40).

Client Control
Michael Lipsky (1980) has extensively studied the nature of
the relationship between clients and street-level bureaucrats. All
of his findings seem to suggest that for effective control over
clients, some degree of professional autonomy needs to be endowed
within the street-level bureaucrat. Client and officer relations,
he notes, tend to be organized on compliance and deference being
rewarded. Those clients that are respectful, quiet, and cooperative
will naturally have an easier time of it than clients who are
uncooperative, abusive, and attempt to engage in conflict, "They
tend to be lenient with offenders whose attitudes and demeanor
denote penitence but harsh and punitive to those offenders who show
disrespect" (31).
But as Lipsky notes: "But this does not mean that clients are
helpless in the relationship. Clients have a stock of resources and
thus can impose a variety of low-level costs" (57). Offenders can
most easily become troublesome by taking up an officer's precious
time. Offenders who refuse to comply with probation can make an
officer's job extremely difficult by requiring him/her to more
frequent supervision, spend more time investigating and documenting
violations, and seeking appropriate treatment resources, for
example. Fear of non-deferment by clients has caused many officers
to echo the sentiment of one interview participant who stated that
he ended each initial meeting with a client with the following
statement, "Tell you what, you leave me alone, I'll leave you

When officers lose authority, such as the power to arrest
clients, or revoke them back to court, their ability to maintain
control over the client becomes more problematic. Offenders know
that they can get away with more and become less responsive to the
"deferred authority" of the supervising officer. One officer noted
"It's hard to control my clients when I don't have any
authority...'Hey better fuckin' behave!'" Or, as another
officer stated:
Clients expect us to be probation officers, so
when we don't live up to that, regardless of what
we're supposed to be, you know, that's the
reality, is that we don't know. It makes it tough
to the job when we can't live up to what is
expected of what we're supposed to do. I think it
makes the job tougher because you're going to get
less compliance from your clients if they think
they can get away with something because you don't
have the authority to enforce it, and they know
Even when offenders aren't actively aware of internal
departmental policies, these policies are externally communicated
outside the organization by others on probation in the community.
One juvenile probation officer explained her nightmare situation
after two brothers, both on probation with her, went to school and
talked to all the other students on probation that she had at the
same school:
I had two brothers on probation...they were into
some pretty bad stuff for being...the age that...they I want to revoke them, [supervisor] says

no, what else have you tried, I don't know what
else to try, they go to [high school] and tell
[all these clients] you know, that you can do
drugs and not go to treatment and it doesn't
matter. After that all my cases just went into
the toilet and maybe there wasn't jail space to
put them in right away, maybe they still weren't
going to get in trouble for awhile, but now
they're all on round two of probation, and pretty
soon it'll be round three, then they'll be adults,
and eventually they will end up in jail, and we
could've just taken care of this a long time ago!
Many officers spoke of clients quickly learning about
departmental policies through the unofficial and informal
communication networks of the clients outside the office. As with
the neighborhood's broken windows in "Broken-Windows Policing," it
quickly became clear to the client offender sub-culture at this
agency that "no one was in charge, and no one was in control."10
Role and Mission Confusion
In the studied county, probation officers were forced into
roles that required the development of a personal rapport with their
clients, trying to encourage and inspire, yet having to also be the
disciplinarian and authoritarian. The common sentiment among
probation officers is, "Let me help you, but if you screw up it's my
duty to revoke your freedom." cops," or as they are often called by
10 Kelling, George L. and Coles, Catherine M. (1997) Fixing Broken
Windows. New York: Simon & Schuster.

traditional police officers, "social workers with handcuffs."11
The department promoted itself as an agency that was focused
on rehabilitation. An idea that many officers believed was not
formed out of any thoughtful ideological adoption, but rather as a
result of minimal resources with which to act in a punitive matter,
(i.e. very little available jail space.) As one officer stated:
"The only reason we were pro-give everyone another chance is because
there was no jail space available." Management was heard to
repeatedly say:
We're a kindler, gentler probation. We work
smarter. Handcuffing our clients isn't going to
get them to comply. We know they have problems
already that's why they're here. Our job is to
try and fix them."
Yet, there was almost no money for officers to spend on their
clients toward rehabilitation. Sometimes, such as with positive
drug results, the department felt the officers were being too
lenient, yet other times, often with violent personal crime and
property crime, officers were being too punitive. Officers felt
that the department failed to offer them the resources to be either
punitive or the resources to be rehabilitative and that they were
being forced to take clients back to their office and simply
"perform magical rites" that would cure them for lack of any better
options. Here you see the intersection of inadequate resources as a
problem in compounding the supposed role transition.
11 See Whitehead (2000).

Officer confusion over how to act within this department would
seem obvious when met with such contradictory signals that depended
on the whims of resource availability (jail space and rehabilitation
funds). To many outside observers it appears that an organization
that is ambivalent and confused about its own mission would have
that same confusion filter down to its line-level practitioners who
implement its policy.
After the interviews were conducted it seemed that blame for
role confusion was mostly relatable to two issues: an external
pressure to act in a role contrary to that being promoted by the
organization, and a failure by the administration to have focused on
organizational mission statement.
Peer Approval
Probation work is rarely done in a vacuum. In many ways,
officers feel like circus ringleaders, leading a parade of street-
level bureaucrats in an attempt to somehow come out at the end with
some type of positive change in their mutually shared offenders. In
other words, there is heavy reliance on inter-agency participation
to perform the probation job well. Probation officers also
typically and regularly work with the police department on
investigating possible new law violations for offenders, ankle
monitor companies, half-way houses, drug addiction centers, the
jail, and for children, the social services system along with a host

of schools.
One officer stated in regards to this issue: "If we can't
enforce conditions for our clients, then we're hurting everybody's
chance to be successful." This officer is referring to the fact
that often times drug counselors, workers at day treatment
facilities, and even teachers in school look to the probation
officer to control their client. After all, of all the street-level
bureaucrats in the circle of services, the probation officer is the
one who is thought to be the law enforcement officer.
It is in this community perception of the probation officer's
job that fosters some of the enduing role confusion in an officer's
mind. Partnering agencies commonly demand that officers act in
their traditional policing roles, even as the probation profession
educates officers into expecting that they will be playing a social
worker or rehabilitative role. One probation office administrator
bemoaned that "We're trying to get people to think in terms of case
manager or social worker, not cop." Yet, the administration failed
to communicate this change fully to the network of agencies that
partnered with probation. Barbara Sims (2002) noted this
problematic situation:
According to Williams (1999), effective leadership
in probation agencies requires setting the tone
and agenda for the agency as the first step in
improving the image of probation both inside and
outside the agency. A major responsibility of a
leader is to define the mission of the enterprise,
and agencies without a clear mission or vision
could drift and become exposed to pressures both
within and outside the agency.

This role transition became exceedingly difficult when many of
these agencies had long depended on the effectiveness of probation
for their own success. One interview subject offered a case study
in the failure of one of his clients. The client, "David," was a
methamphetamine addict attending drug counseling only because he
would end up in jail if he skipped his classes. In addition, he was
involved in several other programs, such as Workforce, a job
training program, and a domestic violence class as his case
originated out of a domestic violence dispute. At first, David,
fearful of his probation officer's threats of incarceration,
dutifully attended all his classes. "But then he started to miss a
few and he carefully watched for what I would do...I gave him some
unenforceable intermediate sanctions like imposing a nightly curfew
and making him write some paper on the necessity of being
responsible and attending meetings..." the interview subject
explained. However, after David realized that his supervising
officer was essentially powerless to enforce the supervisory
conditions of David's probation, he stopped attending all together.
The other agencies contacted the probation office, commenting on
David's increasing absenteeism, and called David's supervising
officer to get him to make his client attend. This interview
subject stated: "I bullshitted my way as long as I could, but I
couldn't really do anything."
Another officer offered a similar story. A juvenile probation

officer, he had been responsible for a young fifteen year old who
was completely disruptive in the classroom. The juvenile had been
screaming at teachers, attacking other students, and making his
teacher's days a nightmare. The student's teacher had been forced
to call the in-house school police officer very regularly. But,
knowing that the juvenile was on probation, the student's teacher
contacted this officer in hopes that the student's probation officer
would be able to control his client's behavior:
I talked to [officer's supervisor] and told her
about him and she just sighed and asked if he was
in anger management classes. So I have to go to
his teacher and say, sorry he's attacking you in
school, I'll put him in anger management classes?
That's all I can do. Anger management classes!
Many officers responded by simply going out of their way not
to make contact with those with whom they were supposed to work,
such as addiction counselors, teachers, and social workers, because
they were embarrassed by their own lack of authority--knowing that
they were perhaps supposed to start thinking like social workers,
but still being expected by the outside world to be cops. As one
officer stated: "I try not to talk to teachers, I know that's
horrible because that's exactly what I'm supposed to do in my job,
but I try not to because then they'11 want me to do all these things
that I can't do."
Officers found themselves in a position of putting individual
integrity in conflict with organizational demands and controls of
behavior. Or, extrapolated further, officers felt that to do their

job correctly, to offer those in their community the proper controls
that they believed probation was traditionally supposed to supply,
they felt a duty to circumvent organizational controls in order to
achieve client control. This behavior often took the form of
exaggerating client behavior to supervisors and the judiciary who
approved whether or not an officer could take a client back to court
on a revocation.
The secondary effect of this external pressure on probation
officers is the impact on the morale of probation officers.
Criminologist James Q. Wilson (1989) states that organizations
typically under appreciate the role that peer expectations play in
Peer expectations are both a source of motivation
and a force defining what acceptable and
unacceptable tasks are. If the expectations of
peers can be so important in the desperate
conditions of combat or lurking hazards of mining,
we should expect them to have some effect under
ordinary circumstances as well... (1989: 47).
Wilson notes that officers mostly define their own ego's
relationship to the role they perform through their peer groups;
both of other probation officers and of other professionals with who
they often closely work with. Not appreciating the role that peer
relationships play in defining worker morale thus becomes dangerous
to those that who would ignore it.
Zimmerman (2001) states:
Furthermore, while formalization has been treated
here as a solution for some types of deviant

behavior, it is important to note that this is
only one facet of the debate over the proper role
of bureaucracy within an organization. Raelin
(1994) argues that, in many cases, bureaucracy can
make some workers, particularly professionals who
cherish their autonomy, feel constrained in their
jobs. In these situations, bureaucratic
constraints may actually encourage some forms of
deviant or adaptive behavior, such as the
flaunting of external job opportunities,
identifying with one's profession instead of the
organization, and focusing one's attention on
outside interests instead of one's work.
Overall, Zimmerman is concurring with Wilson, stating that dramatic
reductions in one's autonomy can sometimes backfire and end up
creating indifferent employees. Indeed, indifferent apathetic
employee was found to be in large supply during the course of the
interviews, and often these sentiments were expressed by the new
officers who had only been in their career for a year or two.
Lack of Organizational Mission
Compounding the difficult role transition to social worker is
the fact that probation officers handle larger caseloads than social
workers. Probation officers also lack the resources of social
workers. This situation, along with not adequately communicating
their new role to the community, was an obvious sign that this
organization was not focusing intently on clearly identifying itself
or its mission.
Herman Goldstein, the founder of "Community Policing" writes
that organizations immersed in crisis management, "...concentrate on
the means rather than the ends. They dwell on structure, staffing,

and equipment, with the assumption that such efforts will eventually
result in an improved quality of [work product]" (1980: 11). This
quote doesn't really speak directly to mission statement, and so
your next paragraph seems to drop out of the blue, without a
Officers who participated in this study had no knowledge of
their organizational mission statement; often commenting, "I have no
idea." Supervisors and administration knew of the mission statement
but felt that because of the complex nature of probation work,
something that often is contradictory in its necessary values
(punitive punishment and rehabilitative ideals), that mission
statements were of marginal value. As one supervisor stated, "It's
hard to keep mission in mind when you have lots of missions."
There was almost no institutional deference to the mission
statement as a learning tool for new officers, as an evaluator for
performance, as a tool for disciplinary action, as a guiding force
for operational policy, or as a benchmark for future goals. The
mission statement was in effect, as one officer stated: "...just
something to put on the top of our web page."
The department seemed unclear of its own mission with
confusing and contradictory responses: Sometimes acting punitive,
other times acting rehabilitative and lenient, and almost never in
accordance with officer views. As one author notes:
Effective leadership in probation agencies
requires setting the tone and agenda for the
agency as the first step in improving the image of

probation both inside and outside the agency. A
major responsibility of a leader is to define the
mission of the enterprise. Agencies without a
clear mission or vision will drift and become
exposed to pressures both within and outside the
agency, Staff within the agency, without a clear
sense of organizational direction, will develop an
apathetic and cynical attitude toward the
organization. This attitude will manifest itself
in poor or mediocre service to the offenders and
victims serviced by the agency. Once an agency
begins to drift, it loses its definition and sense
of purpose. Staff become confused about
management's intentions and their investment in
the agency diminishes. The focus in the agency
turns to crisis management and not strategic
planning and goal-setting.12
A Colorado probation assessment report, which found rampant
misalignment between mission statements and operating procedures
within departments, emphasized the importance of vision and mission
statements being in congruence with operational principles:
Mission, vision, and value statements are key
elements of organization. These statements serve
as a center point to inform staff and the public
of the philosophy of the agency, to define the
parameters that will make up the agency's
relationship with its stakeholders, and to
delineate anticipated outcomes (1999: 4)
And Robert Clifton of the University of Colorado at Denver,
states that: "Organizational culture is a hidden yet unifying theme
that provides meaning, direction, and mobilization" (2002). Clifton
is stating an organizational truth: That organizational direction
and meaning do not derive from administrative mandates, but rather
12 Source unknown.

the workplace culture of its workers.
It is important for organizations attempting to become more
mission-focused to incorporate visions and goals into all aspects of
the management of the organization so that the mission becomes a
part of the organizational culture: shaping organizational policies
and goals, creating value-based systems of rules to control employee
behavior, informing disciplinary actions, and guiding employee job
Such mission alignment becomes an exceedingly difficult task,
especially with organizations that embrace a fundamental dichotomy
(helping people vs. locking people up) such as probation. Should
the principal goal of probation and parole be public safety?
Offender reintegration? Victim services? Most observers would
argue that a community corrections mission statement should reflect
a composite of all these. Further complicating the situation are
external structural forces such as the courts and the public, which
place demands on the organization, and the lack of funding to
successfully accomplish much of anything.
Scarce Resources:
Selectivity and Manipulation
The scarcity of resources and available consequences for
clients made many probation practitioners almost afraid to monitor
their own clients for fear of what they might find. Many officers

had the fear that they were creating deviancy that otherwise
wouldn't have been recognized, or more importantly, the didn't much
matter in regards to community safety. Their work load was so
great, they didn't want to find a positive drug test or find out
that someone failed to show up for work as they had neither the
resources to offer the client nor the jail space for incarceration.
In other words, if a probation officer is unaware of a violation, it
does not exist:
Escalation may lead to a latter policy of
nonenforcement in those situations where
authorities perceive that their intervention
would, in fact, only make matters worse. Stepped-
up enforcement may also lead to no enforcement
(Marx 1981).
Burdened by scarce funding and treatment for clients,
burgeoning case loads, and few programs in which to involve clients,
probation officers have become forced to selectively choose clients
on which to focus their time and allocated share of resources. This
is done either out of predictions of a client's likely successful
utilization of resources, or predictions of a client's high level of
risk of failure, to recidivate and cause more harm to the community:
Probation officers also may be forced to weigh the
needs of particular clients against those of other
probationers. Because of severely limited
resources, such as for substance abuse, the
probation officer who enrolls a practitioner in a
program may prevent another person perhaps one
more likely to succeed in a program from getting
treatment. Similarly, a probation officer may
interact with other agencies that might be
reluctant to accept clients from the officer's

caseload if particular clients fail in their
program (Mary Jones 1997: 26).
As with most of the other reasons for disparate policy
engagement, officers here practiced disparate policy engagement in
an attempt to correctly fulfill their roles. In regards to
budgetary and time constraints, officers violated rules to free up
both time for supervision and to limit the wasteful use of their
small allocation of resources (e.g. drug treatment monies, slots in
classes.) This was most often exhibited in officers' falsification
of the ICON computer client records.
Formalization of Decision-Making
The damaging effects of the complete reliance on the standards
set by the instrumentation survey on the work product of probation
officers cannot be overstated because of the time constraints it
imposed on them. Officers' time became managed not by actual client
need, but by purported need as decided by standardized test results
which dictated how often to see clients. As one interviews subject
It's pretty much total bullshit. A guy might have
had a lot of risky behaviors in his past, but
present situation and circumstances tell you he's
doing fine now...but he's got to be seen two times a
week regardless because that's what the LSI says.
Officers routinely were forced to falsify the results of
standardized assessments in order to create time to supervise their

caseloads correctly: "You have to lie, if you don't, you don't have
time to see your clients and someone will end up getting hurt and
then it's all your fault."
Lying thus became a form of re-organizing time back against
the organization's own re-organization of time:
This doesn't mean I'm a bad PO, it just means that
I'm giving myself more time to focus it where it
needs to be focused...not on making sure some medium
risk client who should really be minimum is
getting his school contacts or the month when I
haven't had a problem with him in six months.
This officer would only see the client once a month instead of the
supposed three times a month and was able to focus his time on
clients who actually needed more supervision. The other two
contacts per month were falsified in the computer system for the
appearance of full supervision to case plan levels.
Another interview subject stated:
Yeah, you definitely get into the habit of just
spending a day or so every month just making sure
all your standards are met and your stats look all
good, all polished, all pretty. And then that's
done, you just kind of return to the real work, I
Or, as another officer stated:
It's not like you're lying per say, you're doing
what needs to be done on the important cases, most
of it [the policy violations] occur at the um,
smaller cases, your minimums [low risk clients],
your low supervision clients. Places where you've
already covered your bases. Maybe you do a school
visit on someone and everything's fine, they're a
low-risk client, so you might enter one other

contact to fulfill what you needed to have done on
that case.
Seasoned officers adjusted the LSI to meet with their own
professional judgments and did not have every client who would score
as a minimum recorded as a minimum; they were able to exercise a
level of control over their own assigned workload units that new
hires were not. As one of the new probation officers who had
difficulty in adapting to the informal norms of the department,
stated: "I didn't realize that everyone was adjusting the LSI
scores until I had already been there for like three months. God, I
was dumb."
Within this agency, officer productivity also was measured in
the workload units that are registered on the ICON computer system
on which all officers record the progress of their cases. The case
plans, which were dependent upon the assessment instrumentation, had
an assigned numerical value that depended upon the supervision level
of the client. Officers were expected to have various workload
units depending on the team they worked on. Overall workload units
could consist of fewer maximum clients or a larger number of minimum
supervision clients, as long as, in the end, they all had the same
number of workload units. Most officers were engaged in active
manipulation of their caseload units:
If I was to forge or whatever, make-up false
records, it doesn't mean that I'm not doing my
job, it probably just means that I'm working
somewhere else where I'm not getting credit for
it. It all balances out.

In addition, officers were evaluated on how many successful
client terminations they had where clients were successfully
released from probation compared to how many clients they had that
were sent to jail or sentenced to a stricter form of probation.
Clients were under great pressure to produce positive looking
quarterly statistics for their successful termination rate.
However, many researchers have noted that recidivism rates are not
necessarily a good indicator of performance:
High recidivism can be viewed as a success in the
sense that programs that catch individuals
breaking the law, or the rules, are ensuring
public safety. Los Angeles County Probation Chief
Barry Nidorf suggested that low recidivism be
abandoned as a measuring stick of program
effectiveness. In an article describing victims
as the "conscience of community corrections." The
fixation on recidivism assures an aurora of
failure by measuring the ignorant one-dimensional
win-lose dichotomy of offender recidivism.
(Sinclair 1997: 14).
As one interview subject stated:
You can't measure if someone did well later on,
you can't measure if the community has been
protected from something that didn't happen
because you were able to prevent it in the first
place. You can only measure how many people get
off, but that doesn't mean we're doing our jobs
Or, as another stated: "We're penalized, it's a hit, but sometimes
you can't do well without taking him back to court and we should
not be penalized for that. It's bullshit." It could be argued that

officers who were good at their job would uncover more reasons to
revoke a client's probation, but the rules of the office only
rewarded a "positive" termination of probation.
Drug test falsification to reorganize monetary resources also
was found to be endemic within the organization. The research data
showed that only 10% of participants stated that they had never
falsified a drug test. The department's mandated policy of drug
treatment after three positive drug tests, yet not offering officers
the appropriate resources to back-up such a policy, resulted in
massive disparate policy engagement. This result was known about at
the administrative level according to most officers, yet was one
that people were not supposed to openly speak of, as one officer
stated: "They have to know that everyone does it because all our
clients do drugs, but there's like no [rehab] beds available, but I
don't think you're supposed to talk about it."
Drug test falsification allowed officers to shift resources
away from marginal recreational users of drugs of all kinds, and
almost entirely away from individuals who smoked marijuana, a drug
that is seemingly endemically used by all probation clients. One
officer explained:
You have to consider the risks, I mean, if you put
that up there, if you put the drug test on the
computer, what if that's the day your supervisor
decides to check up on you, then it's, "How come
he's not in treatment?" Then you have to use up
some spot somewhere on someone who's smoking dope,
and then my next guy, my Mr. ------, comes along,
and he's strung out on meth, like 6 feet and 100
pounds, and I can't do anything about it. It's

just easier to not post the drug results sometimes
until you know where all your clients are at,
The Paradox of Resource Management
Ironically, the county implemented organizational controls
over employee decision-making in an attempt to better manage
existing resources. As one supervisor stated: "We just don't have
a lot of jail space in this county, that's just a structural
limitation that we're going to have to live to learn with." For
example, the decision to revoke was taken away from individual
officers and handed to committees, as officers were too routinely
sending clients to jail on revocations. A second example is that
prior to this formalization of decision-making processes, officers
could take the initiative to contact and self-refer to partnering
agencies and simply have the bill sent to the county. Now they had
to get a referral from a supervisor.
The administration at the county was looking at the dilemma
from a macro perspective, including statistics of client population
numbers, revocation numbers, referral to treatment statistics
numbers, and numbers of available resources. From these data sets
they compiled new standards which would better utilize with more
effectiveness the limited resources: "From management's perspective
street-level bureaucrats are resource units to be applied to a task.
But workers experience their situation as individuals" (Lipsky 1980:
31) .

Rule-driven organizations that mandate treatment policies for
all clients of a particular type waste resources on clients who
individual professionals, not formalized decision-making processes,
are often able to identify as not needing resources. One
participant rhetorically asked: "Why do they have to tell us that
you are always going to put this client in this situation in this
program? Don't they realize how much money that wastes?" Almost
all officers interviewed stated that they felt their own personal
assessments were more accurate than the formalized processes were.
One officer explained:
The committees didn't know your clients, you would
go in there and try to argue your case, but they
limited everything to the facts, to how many times
has he been revoked, what charge he's there on,
what's his LSI risk level. So they're always
making decisions you know are wrong, sending kids
who didn't need to be in jail or in treatment, and
sending them to jail or to treatment, and not
sending the ones you know need it.
The formalized decision-making processes imposed by the
assessment instrumentation and the drug policy of sending all
clients with three positive drug tests to treatment, both
assessments that previously officers had the autonomy to decide on,
expanded the possibility of client failure. When funds were not
available, clients had to pay for treatment or classes themselves.
For a populace that is often struggling just to make basic ends
meet, the additional burden of $100 or more per week for treatment
becomes almost unbearable and leads many clients to fail probation

for failing to comply with treatment standards. A probation officer
noted: "
have a guy who's in jail because he couldn't pay for his
abuse classes."

The tensions created by the themes of reduced punitive
ability, role confusion, and inadequate resources were exaggerated
by the over-professionalized, formalized rule-driven organization to
which this department had reverted. Many of these issues, however,
could be possibly addressed in an organization more tilted towards a
mission centered, value-oriented system of management that endows
and respects professional artistry and discretion.
Value-based equitable models of justice are always going to
have liabilities. There will always be some situation or case where
a poor personal judgment was reached and a case managed poorly.
There will always be that officer that abuses his badge. Resource
output will be more erratic and less predictable and less able to be
planned. The consequence of a bureaucratic system of rules,
however, seems to be more dire, as this system, in this particular
department, seemed to increase the likelihood of liability, and
facilitate client failure.
Three primary recommendations have been developed, each of
which are components of value-driven organizational systems. The
first recommendation is to endow officers with some of the authority
that they are statutorily offered, as removing discretion from the
job also removes some of the more potentially adaptive and

innovative components of the organization. Secondly, the department
needs to focus on the integration of actualized mission and vision
statements into the organization. And, finally, the agency must
revert primarily to an individual officer based system of allocating
The question could be asked: Why further empower officers
with increased discretion who have demonstrated a propensity for
violating policy? The conclusion of this author is that within this
particular agency, the officers had no other options but to violate
policy. There were too many conflicting policies. The agency
expected officers to send clients who abused drugs twice to jail or
to treatment, yet provided neither treatment options or jail space.
What are officers to do in this situation? The agency expected
clients to have low revocation rates but then gave them no resources
with which to work with clients. Officers could, at times, get in
trouble if they had not properly controlled a client's behavior, yet
their punitive authority had been removed from them. The agency
rewarded officers who manipulated rules and were able to supervise
their clients and frowned on officers who asked questions about this
disparity between actual policy and unofficial organizational
policy. In an organizational environment such as this, policy
violations become not just an attempt to properly supervise clients,
but become a form of basic survival within the organization.

Discretion is Inherent
The first reason that discretion, an empowerment to be
punitive, and the ability to move outside the office should be
allowed, is that the current bureaucratic model of formalized
decision-making and employee control simply is not working.
Speaking purely pragmatically, if denying discretion is only
increasing liability concerns through disparate policy engagement,
and helping to facilitate client failure, then why not try an
The admissions by interview participants to disparate policy
engagement aptly demonstrates that the bureaucratized rule-based
system implemented do control officers was not working as had been
hoped. Michael Lipsky (1980), a researcher on social service
agencies, states that "Rules may actually be an impediment to
supervision. They may be so voluminous and contradictory..." (14).
By taking away officer discretion it seemed the department only
increased the very issues of liability they were attempting to
control against. The behavior of officers was modified only
slightly, it was only the nature of the officer behavior that
changed, from one of overt action to one of subversive covert
Secondly, ethical decision-making is enhanced by environments
of trust and diminished under authoritarian models of
administration. Clifton (2002), reports from the University of
Colorado at Denver, reports:

The seeming amorphous 'culture' of an organization
will likely guide and inspire individual behavior
much more effectively than formal rules and
regulations, structured authority, and prescribed
Criminologist James Q. Wilson concurs:
In a bureaucracy, professionals are those
employees who receive some significant portion of
their incentives from organized al incentives, the
way such a person defines his or her task may
reflect more the standards of the external
reference group than the preferences of the
internal management (1989: 60).
Not only can workplace culture (such as one with a strong
mission statement and indoctrinated values) be more effective in
promoting ethical behavior than rules, but excessive rules can
sometimes lead to rule-breaking, as Zimmerman (2002) notes:
Furthermore, while formalization has been treated
here as a solution for some types of deviant
behavior, it is important to note that this is
only one facet of the debate over the proper role
of bureaucracy within an organization. Raelin
(1994) argues that, in many cases, bureaucracy can
make some workers, particularly professionals who
cherish their autonomy, feel constrained in their
jobs. In these situations, bureaucratic
constraints may actually encourage some forms of
deviant or adaptive behavior, such as the
flaunting of external job opportunities,
identifying with one's profession instead of the
organization, and focusing one's attention on
outside interests instead of one's work.
Zimmerman (2001), who studied the effects of bureaucratization on
deviant behavior within organizations, found that empowered workers

were less likely to behave unethically within their work
environments, and that organizations with empowered employees were
overall more productive and successful in achieving stated mission
goals: "...empowering workers will result in greater job
satisfaction, more consistent ethical behavior, improved customer
service, increased efficiency and productivity, better outcomes..."
Third, studies indicate that when comparatively assessing the
results of bureaucratic decision-making versus those of the
judgments and assessments of street-level bureaucrats, there is no
evidence that street-level bureaucrats make worse decisions.
The data seems to show a negligible difference, and that, in
fact, there is little variation in results. Christopher Lowencamp
did a 2001 analysis on formalized risk assessment instrumentation
and compared results to personal assessments performed by probation
officers and found that probation officers' own assessments were as
accurate as standardized risk assessments. However, the officers
were, in areas of disagreement, able to articulate and demonstrate
reasons for disparity between the two. In other words, the officers
were able to highlight particular situations where differences in
client profile precipitated a change in how the case was managed and
labeled, something the formalized assessment instrumentation could
not do.13
Colorado Senate Bill #94 data shows that in the quarter before
the formalization policies went into effect, detention levels for
13 For probation officer assessment, see also Siderstrom (2001).

the juvenile team at this county's juvenile detention center were
approximately 35 juveniles incarcerated on any given day.
Afterwards, the number was 37 juveniles. In other words, even by
the state's own statistical data, there was no discernable
difference in incarceration levels between the periods when officers
were able to choose when to incarcerate and when that authority had
been removed from them. Trends for the adult team in the county
jail also remained consistent.14
The final reason administrations need to consider the
importance of discretion is that it is inherent in the role of the
street-level bureaucrat, and regardless of rules or application of
formalized decision-making processes, that inherent discretion
cannot be taken away. Lloyd Ohlin (1993: 23) and his study of
discretion in the criminal justice system states:
On a more abstract level, George Frederickson
(1997, 99) reminds us that discretion is inherent
in all acts of administration because "every
application of a law involves further elaboration
of that law." Thus, like putty, discretion can be
squeezed by oversight and rules but never
eliminated; it will shift and reemerge in some
other form in some other place. As Handler (1986,
8) writes, "[The citizen and state are locked into
continual discretionary relationships. This is a
fact of life in the modern state.
Or, as he states later (55):
The tendency in practice, however, is to treat
anything that is written down as rules when then
are interpreted as edicts. When this occurs, the
14 Senate Bill '94 Report. (2001) June to December of 2001.

desired flexibility is lost and any necessary
diversions from the rules to meet the variety of
situations the police confront returns the police
to acting in a sub rosa manner.
Ohlin is stating an inevitable fact of criminal justice
organizations: Sooner or later, situations will arise where the
rules will not dictate how a line-level officer should act, or what
type of decision he should make. This highlights the problems with
rule-driven organizations: Rules are effective in dealing with
groups of situations,, but are ineffective in dealing with individual
Moody (2000: 21) also writes that:
Rules and procedures can never universally fit
each individual and every circumstance, so
judgments must be made. In many circumstances,
street-level workers must decide which rule or
procedure to apply. The proliferation of rules,
often contradictory rules, requires matching the
case to the rule or procedure, and this requires
Or as Barbara Sims states:
The need for allowing some discretion by officers
is also manifested in a reaction against the
tendency to govern too much through rigid rules
and in recognition of discretion as an
indispensable tool for the individualization of
justice (Davis, 1977). It often is argued that
rules alone, untempered by discretion, cannot cope
with the complexities of modern government and
modern justice, and discretion is a principal
source of creativity in government and law (2002).
As rules become compounded, deciding which rules apply creates

situations where officers must exercise judgments in deciding which
set of standards to apply. A participant in this research stated:
"There's so many rules, that I think some of them contradict each
other. So you just kinda pick one set of rules and hope it's the
right one. At least that's what I do."
Simply recommending to the department that it "give up" since
it obviously cannot control employee behavior might seem like an
incongruous recommendation in regards to increasing productivity and
organizational efficacy. However, the idea does have some merit.
Realizing that their bureaucratic controls are unable to effectively
control behavior as they intend to, and that environments of low
discretion are more likely to breed corrupt decision-making, and
that discretion is an inevitable and unavoidable fact of life in
public service agencies, some form of organization with at least an
institutional acknowledgement of discretion seems to be necessary.
Discretion does not have to exist without controls, however.
This discretion could exist within a series of communicated
standards of behavior and boundaries within which officers were
allowed to make decisions. The department could also more heavily
utilize its existing expertise within the department. If younger
officers were in the field dealing with a client, they could call in
to senior officers who were more experienced if supervisors were not
Enhanced discretion would also work better with enhanced
training. Senior officers could also do in-house training that

would not cost the agency any extra money, as there were several
officers in the agency who had been police officers before and had
training in regards to proper arrest procedures and the threshold
requirements for various actions that peace officers often have to
engage in. In exchange for information on clients and promises of
greater cooperation, partnering police departments could also be
brought in to conduct training.
The individuals who become probation officers are just as well
educated and capable as their police counter-parts (of course, the
police also deal with the imposition of formal rules and reporting
requirements and all that, I bet) and there is no reason that they
cannot be offered similar levels of discretion and authority if
additional training is offered.
Actualizing the Mission Statement
Without visible and coherent organizational mission and
vision, organizational goals become blurry and hard to identify.
This situation may lead to role confusion on behalf of the
individual within the organization. This can result in an
environment where disparate policy engagement is more normalized
because of the existing vacuum of leadership.
When mission and values are successfully incorporated into the
organizational culture, these organizations often perform better at
increasing employee morale, reducing role confusion both internally

within the organization and externally in the organization's
relationship to other partnering agencies, in improving
organizational information flow, and in an organization's ability to
increase their control over employee behavior.
After mission and vision statements are created they then need
to be incorporated into all aspects of the organization. The goals
need to be utilized in job evaluation reviews so that employees know
their performance is going to be gauged by their adherence to the
organizational mission. They need to be utilized in developing
future organizational goals. The mission and values of the
organization need to be discussed on a daily basis and understood by
every individual within the organization at all levels and
communicated to the community.
Ronald Corbett (1996) a researcher studying "Broken Windows
Probation," writes that:
The great advantage of mission is that it permits
the head of the agency to be more confident that
operators will act in particular cases in ways
that the head would have acted had he or she been
in their shoes. They are fewer distortions into
the flow of information because both the sender
and the recipient share common understanding
(108) .
And Osborne and Gaebler continue explaining:
The experience of hashing out the fundamental
purpose of an organizationdebating all the
different assumptions and views held by its
members and agreeing on one basic mission can be a
powerful one .... It can help people at all levels
decide what they should do and what they should

stop doing (1992: 131).
Furthermore, value-based systems of rules inherently offer
those working under this system more discretion and authority, which
increases morale. James Q. Wilson writes that:
When an organization has a culture that is widely
shared and warmly endorsed by its operators and
managers alike, we say the organization has a
sense of mission. A sense of mission confers
special feelings of worth on the members, provides
a basis for recruiting and socializing new
members, and enables the administrators to
economize on the use of other incentives (96).
Once organizational mission and vision have been decided upon,
this can then lead to the implementation of organizational values
which can be more effective than traditional rule-based systems in
governing employee behavior.
Rule based systems can be effective in that they clearly
define in specific situations behavior that is prohibited. But they
are often a poor choice for organizations such as probation or
police where the range of possible situations becomes almost
infinite. This has resulted in voluminous books of rules that will
never be read, or only noticed after the fact of some incident of
Value-based rules, in contrast, are easily read and
communicated, which makes them a more accessible tool for
disciplinary action and for a guide to conduct. They simultaneously
offer employees increased discretion as they are freer to make

decisions, as long as they can support their actions within the
framework of the organization's values and rules, while also
offering possible increased control to administrators who now have
broader rules over behavior that can cover specific situations not
previously mentioned in some specific guideline.
About seven years ago, the Boulder County Police Department
switched to a value-based systems of rules so that they could
attempt to engage a more invasive system of Goldstein's modeled
problem-oriented policing. This procedure allowed their officers to
independently engage the community to seek out problems for the root
causes of crimes within certain neighborhoods. In this type of
scenario, the officers had to be given a higher degree of autonomy
and discretion than were provided under their previous traditional
rule-based system of behavior controls. The department defined the
values that they wanted to work under and from those values defined
value-based rules that would be the new operational restrictions for
their line-level officers.
Where once the department had entire chapters dedicated to
each possible scenario where an officer could abuse his authority,
these various chapters were condensed into a few lines such as:
commissioned members do not abuse the authority conferred upon them
or the trust of the community they are sworn to serve.
Value-based systems of rules on employee behavior can actually
offer increased control over line-level officers. In bureaucratic
rule-based systems line-level officers are able to manipulate

specific rules and often contradictory regulations. When officers
first started getting into trouble in the agency being studied, many
were not punished simply because it was unclear whether or not their
behavior violated a specific policy. It may be harder for officers
to explain away their defection from more broadly defined
departmental values.
Instead of having voluminous rules that restrict when an
officer can and cannot arrest, and can and cannot use their
authority as statutory peace officers, a department with value-based
rules could promote a few highly scrutinized rules requiring the
professional and safe use of authority.
Administrators are obviously reluctant to
implement value-based systems of rules that they
feel could open them up to more liability through
the increase in officer autonomy and discretion.
However, research suggests that, " appears that
there is no statistical difference in the
perceived risk-taking propensities between
process-based managers and behavior-based
managers" (Moon 1999: 40) .
Resource Allocation
Throughout the history of social service agencies,
administrators and employees have attempted various tactics to try
and curb demand on existing resources, or to make existing resources
stretch further. These attempts have included lessening the amount
of services offered to each individual, restricting the number of
individuals services have been offered to, and finally, restricting

the amount of individuals within the organization allowed to make
discretionary decisions regarding resource allocation.
The probation office in this study attempted to restrict
discretion among employees. The problem with this strategy is that
allowing individual-level decision-making can sometimes be an
organization's best strategy in making existing resources last, as
individuals are perhaps in the best position to notice actual need
and also identify situations where resources are being wasted.
Sociologist Michael Lipsky (1980) offers a surprising find in
regards to the procurement of additional resources for street-level
bureaucrats. He states that resource problems mostly become a
problem of perspective, meaning that no matter what the level of
resource funding is, street-level bureaucrats will consistently feel
pressured by budget and time constraints. "If additional services
are made available, demand will increase to consume them. If more
resources are made available, pressures for additional services
utilizing those resources will be forthcoming" (33). Lipsky notes
noting that increased funding, ironically, rarely actually stops the
problem of street-level bureaucrats feeling that they are
chronically under-funded, because demand for services and goods
always is greater than supply level. He writes of the stories of
successful health clinics in the city that, because of their
success, invite an increase in business, and, consequently, have to
reduce services and become less successful. Unfortunately, if the
probation agency as able, through formalized decision-making

processes, to curb extraneous resource allotments, and thereby build
up a small surplus of saved resources, external forces would act on
the system to compensate against the build-up of resources. For
instance, the courts, noticing that probation was having additional
resources, would most likely sentence even more clients to
probation. Or in the juvenile department, the partnering social
service agencies would be most likely to refer clients towards
probation services rather than utilizing their own services.
Lipsky also notes that even when organizations experienced
diminished external demand, internal forces also adjust to
compensate. When demographic shifts force a natural decline in a
request for services, organizations normally internally re-structure
so as to make a negligible difference in the perception of existing
resources, "Consolidation or force reductions tend to be
administered so as to retain individual caseloads" (1980: 36). For
example, if this agency was to hire more officers to help with time
constraints in dealing with over-burdened caseloads, other forces
within the department would, noticing the increase in personnel,
siphon away other employees to deal with a variety of other issues.
When this agency hired a group of new officers, two already existing
officers were turned into a victim's coordinator and a restorative
justice officer.
Increased supply also seems to have little structural effect
on resource allocation pressures. Lipsky uses the example of
teacher classroom sizes in public schools, but a close analogy can

also be made with probation officers. Increased staff or resources
are normally spread over such a wide base, as to be perceived by the
street-level bureaucrat as only a nominal change. For example, the
addition of four new officers in Adams County would allow for the
supervision of almost four hundred additional offenders. Without a
corresponding increase in demand for services, these four hundred
offenders could come from existing caseloads of officers. But four
hundred offenders from a pool of almost eight thousand wouldn't be
perceived by line-level officers as a vast improvement, "...variations
in caseload do not cross the threshold below which practice
substantially improves" (1980: 37).
Instead, Lipsky suggests that alleviations of resource
allocation conflict comes from an individual perception of being
able to effectively manage one's own resources. Officers may have
just as many clients in a value-driven organization as a
bureaucratically organized one, but they at least perceive
themselves to have more breathing room and control over their
situation in the value-driven organization. Lipsky states that it
is essential that workers be able to "husband" or manage their own
Workers have no protection against the accretion
of responsibilities because of incessant demands
and the irrelevance of performance measures of
service quality. Given the need for reserve
capacity to meet unpredictable demands, the
husbanding of resources follows (127).
Even if structurally the demand for resources will never subsist,

allowing officer's the ability to manage their own allocation of
resources at least alleviates the pressures of the conflict of their
never being enough time or money.
Value-driven organizations which endow officers with more
autonomy and discretion, and valued professional artistry, could
allow each officer, each "resource unit" of the organization to more
effectively apply the collective resources of the organization.
With administration acting as a quantitative control over resources
in conjunction with officers being able to discretionarily spend
their own allocated resources could result in a department with more
effective utilization of treatment resources and supervision time
towards the offenders who need it the most. Officer training on
proper resource allocation could also help. As well, the
administration should openly discuss the limits of its collective
resources with its individual officers so that the individual
street-level bureaucrats have a larger understanding of the overall
scarcity of resources that exist within the department. Knowing
that set limits on certain resources exist and understanding the
extent of these limits would likely help individual officers make
better decisions regarding the outlay of their own resource units.

People have problems with rules. After a certain level of
control is exerted, subversive forms of rebellion start to emerge.
For the new hires within the department, there appeared to be two
types of officers. There were officers that rigidly followed the
orders of the court, and there were officers that followed the
"important" rules of the court.
There are twenty-one standard probation rules that include
everything from the complete abstinence of alcohol to not leaving
the state without permission, to not obtaining a single new criminal
offense while on probation, including traffic violations. Rule-
bound officers attempt to enforce all these rules precisely. For
example, Some officers would discover that their client, who
otherwise was doing well, left for a single weekend to go to a
family reunion in Nebraska, for example. Upon the client's return,
he or she would suddenly find themselves with a nightly curfew and
increased office visits for "violating probation." These types of
officers would similar react strongly against traffic tickets,
marijuana use, and drinking alcohol. The clients, often feeling
that they could not "cut a break," would, instead of conforming to
intense supervision to escape future punishments, purposefully
engage in willful conflict with their supervising officers, despite

the fact that, eventually, they would end up losing this "game."
Other officers would focus more on the substantive reason
that a client was put on probation, and less on the formal rules.
If a client was put on probation for drug charges, then, yes,
marijuana use would often be taken somewhat seriously, or at least
not dismissed. But, they could also be on probation due to drug
use, but otherwise have circumstances in their lives that made them
good probation clients: they worked, went to school, showed up to
all meetings. For these clients, the more lenient officers
overlooked traffic tickets or a weekend trip to Nebraska.
Many officers in the first category quickly burned out on the
job and most eventually adopted the philosophy of the second form of
probation supervision. These "rule-hugging" officers also had
abysmally low successful termination rates. This makes sense as
they were more intense in the supervision of their clients than the
more lenient officers and therefore more likely to find violations.
But actual practices also reveal another effect: That despite
how "tough" you make controls over behavior, for the most part,
deviant behavior exists regardless. The clients for these "rule-
hugging" officers rarely made attempts to curb all behavior; they
simply subverted their behaviors and were less open with their
probation officers. This perpetuated a continual series of
relationships where the officer never trusted the client and the
client was as unhelpful as possible to the officer.
During the course of researching this paper, I found ironic

parallels between the supervision of probation clients and the
supervision of probation officers by the administration. It seemed
a chain of custody of attempted supervision and attempted controls
over behavior; none of them very successful.
Sociologist Howard S. Becker (1963) found in his work "Moral
Entrepreneurs: The Creation and Enforcement of Deviant Categories"
that it wasn't so much behavior that defined deviancy, but rather
labels of deviancy that was the most important factor in defining
deviancy. Re-reading his work as research for this paper, I was
reminded of the court and the probation officer that supervises a
client for one offense, and then casts as wide a net as possible to
catch all other non-related offenses during supervision; the end
result often being incarceration, not for a probation violation
having anything to do with the original offense, but for some
completely unrelated offense.
Gary Marx (1981), in his work "Ironies of Social Control:
Authorities as Contributors to Deviance Through Escalation,
Nonenforcement, and Covert Facilitation," states that authoritative
controls often compound deviancy for reasons similar to why the
probation client responds to aggressive supervision with rebellion
instead of meek surrender: Human psychology is such that protection
of the ego often takes precedent over protection of freedoms.
Organizations are complicated, labyrinthine instruments that
take on a momentum all their own; a momentum that is often greater
than the sum of its individual contributors. Organizations are

microcosms of society, which means that they will be filled with
complex often-invisible processes that transfer and implement power
and authority across organizational divisions and groupings of
peoples. Violating policy, the "deviant" act of a disgruntled or
disempowered worker is never a simple act. Policy violations take
on all types of meanings. Some are simply products of poor morale
and lazy workers. However, many are attempts to re-distribute power
and authority. And yet others are attempts, as it was with many in
Adams County, to re-organize time and re-allocate resources. To
supervise clients as officers felt compelled to because of their own
professional judgments. In many cases, it seems policy violations
are attempts to fulfill the duties of the department.
Probation officers do not want to be criminals within their
own organization. It is the administrator's job to ensure that they
are not creating deviant subgroups within their own organization
through the means with which they have constructed their
organization and their corresponding operational patterns.

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