Saturday, May 05, 2007
From Road Cop to C.O.
A C.O. with a road cop mentality needs an upfront introduction to a federal lawsuit involving a C.O. and the aftereffects. Watch your home, paycheck, pension, personal life etc. go right down the toilet because you treated an inmate differently than a person on the street. Jailhouse lawyers abound and appointed attorneys are a dime a dozen.
C.O.s are held to a higher standard. You have more intimate training and a duty to perform according to your policies and procedures.
There are two things you need to remember about an inmate (and this part ain't easy):
First is, the un-sentenced inmate is the same as a person on the street. You violate his/her civil rights inside and create an environment that is seen as hostile to the inmate and you are screwed same as a person on the street. No administrator nor people you work with will cover your tracks and watch your back if you screw up and they see they are about to lose their stuff when it was your screw-up. They won’t buy into it. They will give you up in a heartbeat. Do not make the mistake to think that all C.O.s stick together when someone is about to lose something. You are a face to them and 20 years down the road you will be another long-lost memory the walls will talk about. When you are out of the circle you are done. Friendships go bad and the others that give you up wonder why you put them and their jobs in jeopardy.
Treat one inmate differently and you have an obligation to treat all inmates the same way. Otherwise you get sued. Lawsuits are a dime a dozen and municipalities pay what’s called "nuisance money" to an inmate to get him/her to drop the suit. The municipality realizes it costs too much to litigate a BS case in court. Even if they settle, you are found guilty at a civil level and your job is toast. Don't make the mistake that this doesn’t happen. You just don’t see the people it happens to in your little microcosm.
Secondly, for sentenced inmates the same applies. They are guilty and just like being grounded and sent to your room, they are being punished by a system (not you) designed to keep civil order and protect the people. You may not agree with it, but that’s the way it is. Politicians make your job harder and if you think for a minute a municipality will cover you, you are sadly mistaken. There's this thing called "vicarious liability." You are given the tools to do your job in the form of policies and procedures that keep you livelihood safe including your working environment to a degree. Policies and procedures are always a work in progress. Stray from the policy and vicarious liability bounces off the municipality and drops on you (also known as ...S--- rolls downhill). These are your 1984 federal lawsuits.
All inmates by federal and state law have to be treated equally and fairly. That’s what the Constitution says. And yes, you can have your doubts as to their (the inmates’) sincerity and guilt/no guilt, but follow your polices and procedures. You screw up and the inmate owns you. The inmate wins, you are dirt now. The shoe is on the other foot. Be cautious, be careful, but don’t be stupid. Get rid of the “John Wayne and a bucket of hand grenades” attitude.
Corrections has changed, and if you want to be the scapegoat to make more changes, then have the street cop mentality. Unfortunately inside you are outnumbered with many "witnesses" and log books. (Do you read all the log entries or informational reports sent up the chain of command?? Bet you don’t.) Only no one will know you are the reason for a change in the system. They are not going to name a law after you, not a policy or procedure. But at least, while you are flipping burgers at McDonald’s, you'll be content in knowing someone else won’t burn.
Now if you can afford to lose your job…. Not sure how it is in your state, but here in NY if you are fired from a civil service job you can never hold another civil service job again, not even a security job that pays minimum wage. And heaven forbid if you cop a felony conviction for something stupid on the inside. You are done. You can never hold another cop job or any professional license ever. Look at your state laws. Probably it is the same. Get fired as a cop (corrections, police, peace) and you are done...period.
Been there, done that, and was saved in time from being one of those persons by an old timer. Did I have that same attitude when I went from the road to the jail?? Yes, right from the get-go. Did I survive? Yes, because someone showed me what I was doing wrong. The difference from others who went before me was ... I listened. Been at this 25+ years now and do I think inmates are coddled?? Yes. Do I think they have more rights than you?? Not really, but it seems like that. But I choke it back and do the job according to the book and am still at it. Additionally, if inmates see you as consistent in your practices you do generate a bit of respect. Do I maintain an attitude that my rule is the way it is according to the policies? Yes, my house, my rules.
The best way to deal with an inmate is to give them what they are entitled to and nothing else. Entitled does not mean blowing them off, or trying to be the tough guy because you have the rules on your side and you choose to bend them more than you legally should.
A line officer has very little latitude with bending rules, a corporal has more, a sergeant has more, a lieutenant has more, etc., right up to the man that has his name plastered all over that book as being the one that owns the rules. Change the rules and you are now pissing him off and administrative remedies is his way of getting back at you. You think he's going to give up his cushy job because you screwed up?? Nope. Get real. You don’t stand a chance. Remember that, when he's out tying a load on, laughing, enjoying life, sleeping real comfy in his bed on his mega money salary. You too can do that on your minimum or just above minimum wage job outside of corrections.
Inmates have time to think of scams 24/7, and, just like with little kids, you can’t lose your temper with them. Show them they can’t get over and that’s more powerful and effective than anything else. Your rep will spread. Don’t coddle either, but be fair and just in your decisions and temperament.
Something to think about. However, for some until they get burned or see someone close up get burned, they won't learn.