Reality Training: Correctional officer saves life of choking inmate

Would you know what to do if you found an inmate or a coworker choking?


By C1 Staff

In this video, an Ore. sheriff's deputy comes to the aid of a choking inmate. The incident occurred at the Linn County Jail, where inmate Chris Anderson found himself choking on a breakfast bar. In the video, he appears alone in a dorm area, leaning on a table.

Deputy Adam Hedrick appears on camera and moves to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the inmate. Food was eventually disloged from Anderson's throat. 

Check out the video and join us again below for some discussion points.

This video is indicative of the many hats worn by those working in corrections. The duties of corrections officers are varied and diverse as is the training that they receive. On one hand officers are symbols of authority who administer rule and law enforcement while also being expected to serve as agents of change who help individuals effectively reenter society. Officers are trained and expected to use force in the performance of certain duties while also being trained how recognize illness and injury and take steps to save lives and offer first aid.

Alone these expectations can be challenging enough. When other considerations are factored in such as the potential for inmate con games and other security concerns, this role becomes even more challenging and complex.

The video of the corrections officer coming to the aid of an inmate is an example of those things done each day by corrections staff all over the country that normally go unnoticed. While an average person viewing the video may summarize it simply as a jailer giving the Heimlich maneuver to a choking inmate, those working in the field understand the other factors at play.

When the corrections officer observed the choking offender, it is likely other critical thinking steps took place prior to his reacting. These steps are essential in the performance of duties each and every day and are key components in maintaining and safe and secure environment as well as ensuring personal safety as well. These steps include:

Assessment - Assessment of each situation prior to fully committing. Not only must officers assess the potential medical issue to determine what is likely occurring, but they must assess the environment. Is the area safe? Is this a set up? Do I have the tools to respond safely and effectively? Do I have the training and knowledge to respond safely and effectively?

Resources - During the assessment step the question, “Do I have the tools to respond safely and effectively?” is a question that is broad and encompassing. The necessary tools can include physical tools of the job as well as personnel resources. It is extremely important that an officer communicates the need for additional resources or waits for those resources to arrive prior to responding. The necessary resources can also include training and knowledge based on an assessment of a situation. As demonstrated in the video, training in first aid, CPR, AED, and choking may prove just as valuable in the performance of certain job duties as defensive tactics, firearms, and chemical agents.

Action - If an officer decides that he/she can respond safely and has the available resources to do so then action can be taken. Action, in the case of the video, meant that the officer was able to give abdominal thrusts to a choking inmate. After an assessment of the situation and a determination that he had the resources (training/ability) available to respond safely, the officer was able to take action to save the offender.

Considering the varied tasks that corrections officers perform on a daily basis, it is crucial that appropriate training take place. While each person has his or her personal favorites when it comes to training topics, it’s important to remember that most every subject is important and has value to the staff member. While the officer has the duty and responsibility to take the training seriously and apply the skills learned, it is equally important that agencies and departments department administrators ensure that training being offer is of high quality and relevant to the job duties of their employees.

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