probation-5Probation is recognized as a judicial function, overseen by the Courts, and is an integral part of the law enforcement team in Suffolk County. Probation Officers have dual responsibilities of public safety in the community and rehabilitation efforts with offenders. They are often referred to as Peace Officers, with 241 Probation Officers in Suffolk County, they serve the community in number of ways. They work with the judicial system to provide alternative solutions to incarceration for those offenders who can be monitored and reintegrated into society. These offenders must make restitution to the victims of the crimes they perpetrated and work within the constructs of a rehabilitation program. Probation Officers work with the juvenile justice system to provide early intervention for youth at risk. This important work has proven to reduce crime and helps to get young people on a successful path.

Probation Officers supervise approximately 9600 cases consisting of felony and misdemeanor offenses. They also serve thousands of residents every year who come to probation seeking assistance in preparing court petitions involving family offenses, custody and visitation, parental support and/or to file a “person in need of supervision” (PINS) report.

We had the opportunity to speak with one of the newest members of the Suffolk County Probation Department, Ana Giraldo. She is one of ten newly trained Probation Officers in Suffolk County who completed her first full year of duty on December 15, 2015. Her story is one of hope, helping hands, hard work and giving back.

PO Giraldo began her career working as a Legislative Aid for an Assemblyman in Brentwood. During this time she was tasked with helping the immigrant population and realized the constant hardships the immigrant people and their families were facing on a daily basis. Because of her own immigrant experience, she felt motivated to find a way to be of greater service to those in need. Giraldo spent the next five years working as a Bilingual Community Advocate for Family Service League, a local not-for- profit organization. She was especially wellsuited to her role there “I felt that I could help people see things from both sides while providing guidance and being a mentor. I have been in their shoes and understand both the frustration and the possibilities.”

Giraldo’s passion for giving back to the community stems from her own experience, she moved to the United States from Colombia with her family when she was 16 years old. Without knowing how to speak English, Giraldo and her family struggled to navigate the complicated immigration process and life in a new country. She recalled this time in her life and said, “the United States is a wonderful place to live but it is very complex and difficult to figure out.” It took Giraldo three years to become a citizen, and she acknowledges how fortunate she was to have so much guidance and support along the way.

I am very proud to be a citizen but I will always be an immigrant. More immigrants need to be aware of the opportunities available to them in their Communities and have the same chances of success that I have had.”

Giraldo spoke gratefully about the help she received from teachers, community organizers, employers and government officials. They are a driving force that motivates her to give back.

It’s important for me to thank everyone by showing them how far someone could go when they have proper guidance and great mentors; something that many people have not had the opportunity or the privilege to have.”

Family Service League encouraged and supported her commitment to further her education. While working full time, she went to college at night and earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. PO Giraldo’s extensive community involvement combined with her interest in law enforcement led her to the Suffolk County Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy which is an extensive training program offered to residents. The 16 week program fosters partnerships between the community and the Police Department. Upon completing her training, she was inspired to become an Auxiliary Police Officer, which is a volunteer position with the Suffolk County Police Department. Giraldo was now determined to pursue a career in law enforcement that would also satisfy her desire to help others.

Everything she had worked for was coming together. The culmination of her previous jobs, volunteer positions and undergraduate education (a Bachelor’s Degree is mandatory to become a Probation Officer), Ana Giraldo registered and studied for an upcoming civil service exam. This was the next step towards achieving her dream and she was elated when her score, education and impressive background earned her the position she told us is “the best job in the world”.

With over oneyear under her belt, Probation Officer Ana Giraldo shared how comfortable and fortunate she feels to supervise the people who are on probation. She supervises up to 60 people at any given time and the backgrounds, gender, ethnicity and ages of people vary from 17 – 70 years old.

This job allows me to use the combination of my experience as an immigrant, my skills as an advocate and community organizer, and most importantly my training and respect for law enforcement.”

Her career path, primarily driven by her passion and dedication to the community, has enabled her to be part of the change she always wanted to see.

As a probation officer you feel that you have not only made a difference in the life of a person, but also a difference that impacts a whole community of people.”

PO Giraldo has indeed chosen a career whereby she is giving back and paying it forward. Congratulations.