Bill Would Give Police Wide Latitude To Search Those On Parole, Probation


Police and sheriff’s deputies would have new powers to search people on parole and probation under a bill that will get a hearing in a legislative committee in Madison this week.

If approved, this law would give police officers and sheriff’s deputies the same authority parole and probation officers now have to search people who have not completed their parole or probation period. Sheboygan police Captain Bob Wallace, who helped draft the bill, says the goal is to deter parolees from committing new crimes that could send them back to prison.

“Our hope is that those individuals will not commit future crimes not commit violations of their probation or parole and will re-integrate into the community appropriately. So it’s not just about exercising that authority in any capricious or random kind of manner. I think a strong argument for the law is that it hopefully will prevent recidivism.”

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The law faces opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin. State ACLU director Chris Ahmuty says it duplicates powers that probation and parole officers already have, and may promote rather than prevent recidivism.

“We’re trying to be smart about how to supervise these people on probation and parole so that we don’t have that revolving door that sends so many of them back to prison. We don’t need to have a Dragnet out there looking for minor parole and probation violations. We need to let probation and parole take care of violations and let law enforcement take care of more serious crimes.”

The Department of Corrections has not yet reacted to the bill, which will get a committee hearing on Thursday morning.