The events of last week that occurred in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas and Michigan weigh heavy on my mind and heart. Each incident is troublesome enough on their individual merit. Having them happen in a succinct time frame magnifies the contempt of each issue.
Before I go on let me say that my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of our fallen Peace Officers in Dallas and Michigan, and for the two men from Louisiana and Minnesota. The wave of affect when a life is stolen is damaging to more than just that one individuals life.
How do the events of the last week affect us as Correctional Officers from a different state than where the incidents occurred? I’ve thought about this alot. As C/O’s we are told and warned to wear “covers” coming to and from work. Limit stops while in uniform to a minimum. Use alternative routes so not to have the same commute pattern where someone can learn our driving habits. Reading these examples, ask yourselves how many of these do you actually practice.
We should already be aware of the public perception of us by the general public because of how we are portrayed in the news and movies. With that said, there have already been incidents of Correctional staff being assaulted or murdered at their homes or in their cars away from work.
We deal with the worst of what the courts have decided should be punished by being removed from society for a limited time or permanently, due to whatever their social choices in behavior they have made. Many of them feel they have nothing else to lose and can easily make a name for themselves by taking their aggression out on us. Many inmates are being released from the SHU and are walking our main line yards. Never forget why they ended up in the SHU to begin with. Odds are they have not changed their outlook on life.
Complacency is our worst enemy just as much at home as it is while at work. We can never turn off our correctional awareness because we are not at work. For our personal safety and the safety of our loved ones we can turn it down to a more relaxed level, but the awareness of your surroundings and who is in close proximity should never be ignored.
Due to the freshness of each situation, the investigations are at the beginning stages and minimal information has been released. What we do know about each event (Louisiana and Minnesota) is that the officers involved had less than 5 years in the department each. CNN reported that both officers had 4 to 4 ½ years in their department and already had complaints filed against them. The Minnesota officer was also with the department for approximately 4 years. At this point the entire bases of facts are still unknown so I do not pass judgement… I question information.
As Correctional Officers, we are trained to read a situation at a glance. Experience, monitoring behavior, common sense, and our ability to communicate play an intricate role in our decision making. It is obvious that training behind a desk is not enough for any officer to have the understanding and know how to not only defuse a situation, but not create one where it does not exist.
Communication is our greatest tool. Some need to cultivate those skills more than others. Just don’t believe because you wear a badge your authority will be automatically followed. Our star is not a badge of courage. It is a symbol of honor, never admired by the public we serve or valued by the Administration we work under. A symbol of honor for doing a job that many cannot or will not do.
I do not believe Administration is doing enough to reaffirm our safety while on duty. Changes for heightened awareness that lasts for a weekend is not good enough, especially when the information is not disseminated until the end of 3rd watch on the first day.
I appreciate the police in their action to run towards danger, with deadly force in hand, in the effort to protect the innocent. WE run towards danger, with non-lethal equipment in hand, to stop and contain the threat and protect both the innocent AND the guilty. I ADMIRE YOU MORE.
As part of my family, my DVI family, I ask in these trying days’ to pay attention a little more. Stay in your alert level ’Orange’ and watch your 6. It’s no longer just about doing your shift and going home. If you remain ready for any threat, no threat will be ready for you.
I’m Just Sayin…