4 types of policies rookies should pay close attention to
Policies set the guidelines and expectations of how to function as a correctional officer in any facility
As a recruit officer going through training, I was inundated with materials about post orders, control tactics, self-defense training, and policy review and understanding. Understanding your organization's own policies and procedure is important for every rookie officer. Procedures dictate what occurs within the institution, including count, clinic, pill runs, chow delivery and use of force.
Policies are the road map to success. Policies set forth the guidelines and expectations of how to function as a correctional officer. In reviewing many policies as a recruit, focus on those that will limit your exposure to being disciplined, fired or sued.
Here are four types of policies that you should pay close attention to and learn both inside and out.
1. Count Policies
One of the most important aspects of being a correctional officer is knowing where every offender is and is supposed to be at any given time. Organizations differ on the amount and style of counts that they have, but the purpose of the counts are simple: to know how many offenders are under the care of the agency.
These should be the first policies that you review on a regular basis. As a correctional officer, you need to know when to count the offenders, what happens if they do not follow the rules, and how to appropriately ensure that everything is conducted in a smooth, time-efficient manner.
Correctional officers apply and remove more handcuffs daily than a police officer. Your agency should have a very robust policy on applications of force, along with restraining of offenders. These policies provide a road map of how to secure an offender, when and how an offender should comply with orders, and outcomes for an inmate’s failure to follow orders.
The policies are in place to protect corrections staff, the offender being restrained and just about anyone else who may be involved. As a correctional officer, you are responsible for the inmate if anything happens to them while they are in your custody.
3. Medical Policies
Offenders within a state corrections system are deemed to be wards of the state. What does this mean for you as a corrections employee? It means that the offenders need to have medical care provided, the care needs to be timely and it should also be reasonable. Moreover, if they have complaints that are medical in nature, appropriate documentation and communication with supervisors need to be followed.
Medical care is not just Band-Aids and stitches, but can also include psychological care. This care includes potential threats of self-injury, suicide, delusions and other psychological trauma. Correctional officers, while highly trained in understanding people, have very limited clinical training and experience to determine the veracity of any psychological condition. So it is incumbent upon you to understand your organization's policies.
4. Emergency Response Policies
Police officers respond to emergencies on a regular basis, jumping into squads and hurtling into the fray. As a correctional officer, there are similar emergencies, but you can’t always respond. The reason is that you have care, custody and control of a specific set of individuals; individuals who are dangerous and potentially violent. If you were to leave the group, there’s the potential that something bad might happen with the offenders you just left.
In corrections, there are contingent or response units who are tasked with responding to emergency situations. Other officers are assigned to a specific block, cell or complex. This doesn’t mean your help may not be needed; correctional staff are often outnumbered by sometimes as many as 70 to 1. So, if there was a large fight in a communal area, a progressive, reactive response needs to be sent to prevent utter decay within the institution.
Policies, as stated before, are road maps to success. By studying and understanding your facility’s policies, you will be well armed to handle most if not all situations that may come your way during the course of your shift. You should review policies often, to ensure that you’re current on any changes that may have been recently implemented. Knowledge is power, so stay informed.
This article, originally published 08/28/2015, has been updated.