A Member's Perspective

By Rich Berkery, SCOPO Legislative Vice President

You may ask, “What is that $3.00 deducted from your monthly paycheck?” I know I asked that same question several years ago. The $3.00 is used for membership to the State Coalition of Probation Officers (SCOPO), which includes Probation Counselors.

SCOPO was formed in 1983 by line probation staff in several counties, who happen to be leaders of their local probation associations or unions. These people believed there was a great need for a statewide organization that would speak to interests of the “line” probation counselors and officers.

SCOPO is unique. It is the only statewide coalition organization representing line staff probation counselors and officers, whose purpose is every aspect of probation, blending both labor and professional interests of probation. SCOPO’s ideas are quite simple. They believe that in order to create the best professional institutional counselor and/or probation officer, an environment has to be provided for these employees that offers the best wages, hours and working conditions.

SCOPO’s efforts are directed in two areas. First, SCOPO actively sponsors and supports legislation that is beneficial to institutional counselors and probation officers. This legislation may be of a labor or professional nature. SCOPO screens criminal justice and labor related bills. If a unit has a piece of legislation that it wishes SCOPO to sponsor, it is presented to the SCOPO Board and voted on. If SCOPO agrees to sponsor the bill, SCOPO will work with your unit to find a legislator to carry the bill and will lobby for the bill in Sacramento. Secondly, SCOPO serves as a statewide communication network to assist local members in compiling supporting research for contractual negotiations.

SCOPO Board of Director’s, made up of one to two representatives from each member unit, meets five times a year at different locations throughout the state. The Board votes on legislative matters and political endorsements, and shares information on relevant issues affecting the individual units. Speakers are also scheduled who may be politicians, leaders in the field of Probation or representatives of organizations, whose influence can benefit Probation Counselors and Officers.

Currently, there are 25 member unit counties throughout the state in SCOPO. SCOPO co-sponsored legislation that began the process for safety retirement for probation line staff. SCOPO has been a primary mover towards arming probation officers throughout the state. SCOPO re-wrote all the presumptive laws to include “and county probation officers” or “including all 830.5 safety officers.” Additionally, SCOPO wrote and is listed as a co-sponsor on legislation related to bio-chemical agents.