A probation officer’s credibility is judged by the quality of their field visit documentation

“You will never know the value of good chronological documentation until you don’t have it.” I emphasize this in every field/home visit safety class I conduct. Probation officers must take notes during field/home visits and document the visit as soon as possible. Some probation officers fail to understand that our clients have a past, a present, and, sadly, sometimes a potential future in crime. Since clients under community supervision can be subject to open investigations by law enforcement agencies at any time, probation officers must take accurate notes during every field/home visit.

While unforeseen events may prevent probation officers from taking notes immediately, they should document their field notes as soon as possible. Judges, district (assistant) attorneys and defense attorneys might ask during a court hearing, “Were notes taken, and were they documented promptly?” [1] If you have ever been in a courtroom and heard those words, you would hope your chronological documentation is more detailed than a one-liner like, “Conducted field visit on this day, no one was home, honked three times outside of the home and received no response.”

If that is the case, prepare for a lengthy cross-examination. No officer wants to be embarrassed on the witness stand because their notes lack significant details about the visit. An officer’s credibility is judged by the quality of their notes/documentation. [2]