On Monday, January 25, 2010, I was a victim to the staff searches of the 3rd watch staff at DVI. I admit that I brought an item into work that I was not supposed to. In my opinion, it was something that helped me perform my duties in a safer manner than if I utilized the institutional supplied tool. I could have possibly stopped and attempted to hide the item, but my mind does not work well in the capacity to be conniving. Instead, I followed the directions given to me and approached the administrator that I was directed to. Let me state now that I have never attempted to act as if I am perfect or without flaws. In fact, if you can’t tell I am highly opinionated, long winded, stubborn and don’t know when to shut up... So I’ll be the first to say that I am not a perfect person or C/O. I’m far from it.
The administrator was professional and respectful towards me. I could tell that he, along with most of the administration (Lieutenants, Captains and some AW’s) along with the squad officers were not thrilled with what they were ordered to do, but they also had orders to follow. Though there was a breach of local union agreements of not having a union representative present, I had nothing to hide.
I was asked if I had anything I wanted to declare at the beginning of the search. I told him yes, and showed him the cuff key that has hung off of my duty belt for the last 12+ years. My cuff key was attached to my staff key so I handed them both over. My staff key was returned and I was given a receipt before I entered the corridor.
I have several points in my defense why I would openly violate this rule:
1) When I started at another institution, I was advised into purchasing a personal cuff key because at the time, the majority of the institutional supplied keys were substandard in size, strength and reliability.
2) There is a safety and security issue with using the supplied cuff key due to size (2 inches in length) because it is grouped on a key set with other keys including a Folgers Adam key. Examples;
a) If cuffed in the rear, I would either have to remove the cuffs openly behind an unsecured inmate or place the entire key set through a food port to use the key to remove the cuffs.
b) If cuffed in the front, I would have to utilize keys in between the hands of an unclassified inmate. Basically handing over the key set and/or exposing myself to possible assault or harm if an inmate decided to grab hold of my wrists and attempt to pull my hand into the food port.
3) We are trained annually on how to use restraints the safest possible way but are given substandard (and the cheapest) equipment available to do it with. I am aware of the dangers of my job and I intend on carrying out my duties in the safest manner possible. That is why training and equipment reliability and standards are very important to me.
4) With experience working on an active level IV yard, I have been trained to be aware of how some inmates may use any opportunity to take advantage of a situation to assault staff or gain control of his/her equipment. I am surrounded by unclassified inmates of all levels and mental stabilities during my shift so my ‘correctional awareness’ stays on alert status as much as possible.
5) Almost every institution has changed to a longer, stronger made key due to safety, security and tool control (inventory). We still utilize antiquated equipment that should have been changed long ago.
6) I have requested several times for the cuff keys to be replaced including offering the personal purchase to be placed on my specific key groups in my work area or my personal cuff key added to the inventory notes of my staff key.
So what may happen now? I will possibly receive a letter of instruction, the only one I have ever received in my almost thirteen years on the line at three separate institutions. Why? I brought a non-inventoried cuff key into a prison so I can do my job in a safer, more professional manner because the ones issued are cheap and unsafe to use. I was honest enough not to hide what I had and I keep my integrity of why I had it. I’ve shown proof of my ethics by not attempting to dodge the issue of me having a key to improve the safety of my job and minimize any possible incident regarding equipment or personal safety. In fact, I invite any dialogue that may help create a safer work environment.
I am man enough not to lie or conceal what I carried that day, as I have my entire career. I am also man enough to admit when I am wrong. So even though my intensions were good, it was wrong of me to carry my personal cuff key. I am also man enough to take my punishment for my actions as long as it is fair. I should not be made an example of. I guess that will be up to the agenda of the administration. Even though I have enquired several times, I have not yet been called to the carpet. I’m sure administration has already made their mind up on the extremity of punishments they will hand out. I guess I just have to be patient and squirm comfortably while I wait to learn of my fate.
So until I hear more information, I will just end this one with ‘to be continued’…