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Using protective equipment for safer cell extractions

Protective gear can help to reduce injury, increase officer confidence and lead to lower levels of force used


Making use of protective gear during high-risk jail operations can protect you, the inmates in your custody and your agency. Equipment like body armor, convex shields and gas masks can help reduce injury, increase officer confidence and lead to lower levels of force used.


Body armor and padding protect officers from injury when they enter a cell against a resistive inmate. Pieces are available to purchase individually or as a full set that will protect the entire body. Additional armor can protect areas that are neglected by vests worn on a day-to-day basis, such as joints, arms and legs. Helmets and face shields protect your most important asset. Gloves and supportive footwear complete the ensemble.

Armor that is set aside specifically for this purpose also prevents a subject from grabbing at restraints, flashlights and other tools worn on your normal duty gear. An inmate getting hold of your equipment or something being left in a cell or housing area can be very dangerous, and dedicated equipment makes it easy to avoid. It also eliminates the issue of contaminating your regular uniform and equipment with chemical agents like OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray.

Another benefit of wearing extra protective gear when conducting a cell extraction is that officers who are hesitant to engage in such a high-risk activity will be more confident. The added protection should allow officers to better focus on the task of controlling the combatant as opposed to worrying about exposing themselves to injury.

Corrections1 resource: What correctional officers need to know about stab-resistant body armor


Leading an extraction with a specially designed plastic shield can reduce risk during the operation.

A hard barrier between the first officer in the door and the inmate being extracted will block attacks from edged and impact weapons, and defend against items, or even bodily fluids, that may be thrown as the door is opened.

The convex shape of shields usually found in correctional facility armories is an additional feature. This design eliminates potential handholds for the inmate to grab onto and will help to keep the shield from being taken out of the hands of the officer wielding it.

It also allows an extraction team leader to trap an inmate against a wall or the ground, allowing time for the rest of the team to move in and physically gain control of them.

Corrections1 resource: Choosing the right shield for cell extractions

Gas masks

Using chemical agents such as OC spray to help coax an inmate into voluntary compliance, or to put them at a disadvantage when an extraction becomes necessary, is a common practice. However, almost every delivery method for OC creates secondary exposure for everyone in the immediate area. To eliminate this issue, I recommend using gas masks when performing an extraction. This will allow the chemical agent to diminish the inmate’s ability and will to resist the cell entry team while having no impact on the officers’ ability to breathe and gain safe control over that individual.

Corrections1 resource: How to buy protective masks for the correctional environment

Intimidation factor

An added benefit of all this protective equipment is the intimidation factor it can have. An inmate who has defied all prior orders to comply with staff will be shaken by the appearance of a well-prepared, well-outfitted extraction team. This may lead to the inmate complying without force being used at all, a win-win scenario for all involved.

Corrections1 resource: Issues to address before conducting a cell extraction

Defensive tools

While some of this protective gear may appear threatening, it is a defensive tool for officers. Protecting staff from injury should be a priority for supervisors and agencies when sending them into high-risk situations. If equipment such as this is available at your facility and is not being used, you are exposing yourself to incredible risk, not only physically but legally as well.

As with any tool you are using on the job, make sure that you are training with these implements regularly. If you are not comfortable using these devices, ask a training officer or instructor to help familiarize you with them. It is not enough to just look the part, but making effective use of your tools is what will truly keep you safe.

Making use of protective armor, shields and masks can reduce injury, improve officer performance and even lead to less severe uses of force. Avoiding injury to yourself during use of force is as much a priority as avoiding injury to the subject. Make use of discretionary time before a planned use of force such as a cell extraction to gear up and protect yourself.

Additional Corrections1 resources

I would like to acknowledge Deputy Michael Demitropoulos who helped inspire and write this article.

Remington Scott is a jail deputy with the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has worked in corrections and detention since 2017. He serves the Sheriff’s Office as a field training officer, disciplinary hearing officer, and less-lethal weapons instructor.