Franklin County Looking At Probation Officer Communication Following Shooting


When Franklin County Adult probation officer Jonathan Farnsworth was shot by a man on probation, his partner had to dial 911 on his cell phone.

If the same event had happened in Licking County, all an officer would need to do is hit what’s called the “Officer Down” button on his walkie-talkie.

Which system offers a better response is now being debated.

“We have an officer probation officer been shot. Suspect been shot we need police here." 

That's what can be heard from Farnsworth's partner when he called dispatchers.

An armed man on probation shot Farnsworth inside a Columbus home on Petzinger Road. The man on probation was shot to death in the incident.

The call for help was made from Fransworth's partner’s cell phone, not a walkie-talkie, like ones that are used by probation officers in other parts of the state.

The devices come with what's called an "Officer Down" button that signals to all units the officer's location.

“We can talk to the Sheriff's Office, Newark Police Department, Granville Police Department, Newark Fire Department. We can talk to all those people,” says Kelly Miller, Chief Probation Officer for Licking County. 

He says even with a walkie-talkie, communication isn't guaranteed.

“There are places where UHF radios don't work,” he says.

The issue of communication is something Franklin County is discussing; making sure probation officers are safe when they make home visits.

“Neither the probation department, the court, or the probation officers themselves want to be put in a situation where their safety is going to be put at any level of significant risk,” says Judge Pat Sheeran Administrative Judge for Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Chief Probation officer Gayle Dittmer says until Columbus Police complete its review of the July 10 incident; it's premature to second guess whether the department needs to change.

“We want to review every aspect of this situation to determine if there is anything we can do to improve the safety of our probation officers,” she says.

It's not clear whether emergency help would have arrived sooner using either cell phone or walkie-talkie.

Franklin County Probation Department hopes Columbus Police will address that in it’s report.

As for the probation officer who was shot, he's recovering at home.

LINK: Why cops don't use cell phones