North Carolina Republicans have a plan to fix the probation system: allow any police officer to search any probationer at almost any time, without a warrant, says the Raleigh News & Observer. The plan would increase supervision of criminals and offer sorely needed assistance to probation officers struggling with heavy caseloads, proponents said. Rep. Paul Stam, the House minority leader, said law enforcement and probation officials need to work together more closely, just as the CIA and FBI have had to cooperate more since Sept. 11, 2001. He called the plan a “force multiplier.”
The proposal would open the doors for police to conduct searches that have no connection to probation, said Duke law professor James Coleman. Republicans said the idea came from an News & Observer article about probation surveillance officer Mark Hornsby, who has made scores of seizures of guns and drugs from probationers in Harnett County. The bill raises the question of the purpose of probation, said UNC law professor Richard Myers. If the proposal is truly aimed at helping probation officers supervise their offenders, police should be required to contact the probation officer before conducting the search, he said.