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Probation officers union president says department is understaffed and underpaid

Some NYC probation officers say dept. is understaffed, underpaid
Some NYC probation officers say dept. is understaffed, underpaid 01:49

NEW YORK -- Some New York City probation officers are describing their department as understaffed and underpaid, and they say it's only getting tougher.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon spoke exclusively with Dalvanie K. Powell, president of the United Probation Officers Association, a group of 741 officers.

"We're overwhelmed, case loads are high, and there's a lot of pressure," she said. "Our case loads have increased. Those who would have otherwise been in custody are now coming to us."

She says that's increased the level of risk her members are exposed to.

As probation officers, they work with young felony offenders and gang members, they execute warrants, they're armed and trained, and they're required to have a college degree. But despite all of that, they're considered civilians, so when one of them gets hurt, things are different.

"They don't get three-quarters pay. They don't have the pensions and the benefits like NYPD and corrections," Powell said.

Her department is made up of 85% women and 90% people of color. Starting pay is a little north of $45,000.

"It's very hard to try to get people to come to work here because of the salaries. Nobody can make it on the salaries living in New York," she said.

She says they've tried to change that for years, with no luck.

"Starting at $45,000 is really inadequate; it should never have been and we have to right this wrong," New York City Councilmember Robert Holden said. "I think if they doubled their salary, that still wouldn't be enough for the job."

Holden is on the public safety committee. He says probation officers often are key in reducing the number of repeat offenders and called them surrogate mothers, a comparison welcomed by Powell.

"You have to love what you do to stay here because that's the spiritual gratification that you get from doing the work," she said.

In March of last year, Powell met with Mayor Eric Adams and says conversations with his administration have been ongoing.

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