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Principles for success as a CO: Facility safety

Keeping equipment secure, conducting random searches and minimizing inmate movement are some of the strategies to improve facility security


The formula is designed to guide your thoughts, decisions and actions so you develop an operational mindset where officer safety is your top priority, professionalism is your foundation and legality is your path. (Contributed Image)

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In what is the second of a nine-part series, I outline what I call the “Corrections Formula,” an easy way to remember nine principles to optimize your success as a correctional officer.

The formula is designed to guide your thoughts, decisions and actions so you develop an operational mindset where officer safety is your top priority, professionalism is your foundation and legality is your path.

There are three elements of the corrections formula:

  1. Safety;
  2. Legality;
  3. Professionalism.

Each of these three elements contain three principles that make up the nine principles for success:

  1. Officer safety – Your top priority and your duty to yourself and your coworkers.
  2. Facility safety – Your duty to the communities you serve.
  3. Inmate safety – Your duty to those you have been entrusted to protect.
  4. Federal law – The U.S. Constitution, which shapes state law, major acts of congress and case law.
  5. State law – The laws and statutes of the state, which guide your facility’s operations and practices.
  6. Agency policy and procedure – The guardrails that keep you on the path of legality and in compliance with the law.
  7. Guardianship – Your purpose as a correctional officer and why you do what you do.
  8. Health and wellness – Maintaining both physical and mental wellness.
  9. Firm, fair and consistent –The golden rule in being the same professional every day.

This month we look at the second principle, facility safety.


Along with officer safety, facility security is a top priority. Your facility and the officers working in your facility are the only thing keeping damaging members of society secure from the community. Here are some strategies to prevent facility safety being compromised:

Key control: Maintain positive key control, keeping your keys secure and exchanging palm to palm.

Personal belongings: Keep personal items such as cell phones, personal keys, pocket knives, money and other items that could potentially pose a threat out of your facility.

Doors: Never leave doors unsecure. Convenience is not worth compromising safety.

Exits: Never allow any direct access to the outside of the facility.

Jail tours: Make jail tours a priority. Notify a supervisor if a check is late, and do not falsify a check. Frequent checks allow you to effectively supervise operations in your facility.

Equipment: Keep equipment such as TASERs, handcuffs and radios secure. Practice drawing your equipment and ensure it functions at the start of every shift.

Evacuation plan: Know your facility’s evacuation and emergency procedures. Practice fire or natural disaster evacuation drills.

First Aid: Know where all your agency’s first-aid stations are located and keep your first-aid training current.

Safety before task: Never let operational need or task demand take priority over safety.

Random searches: Randomly conduct unit and inmate shakedowns and searches to reduce the amount of contraband in the facility.

Movement: Minimize inmate movement. This reduces the possibility for safety and liability issues, as well as minimizes the opportunity for inmates to pass contraband throughout the facility.

Learn something new: Make it a daily goal to learn something new about your facility. Look around and ask “what if” questions and scenarios:

  • What if an inmate breaks off a sprinkler head in their cell?
  • What if I find a deceased inmate?
  • What if the power goes out?
  • What if there is a fire or natural disaster?
  • What if an inmate in the dayroom refuses to return to their cell?

The list goes on, but it is up to you to figure what critical questions you should ask so you can prepare your response ahead of time.

Next month: Inmate safety

Brandon Anderson is a police officer for the Sumner Police Department in Washington State. He has spent the last few years as a sergeant/frontline supervisor with a large regional jail in Washington. He joined the Marine Corps in 2007 and started working in corrections in 2012 at a small county jail. He has worked both indirect and direct supervision as a frontline officer and frontline supervisor. He spent two years as the training coordinator and primary TAC officer for the Corrections Officers Academy in Washington State from 2015-2017. As a Master Defensive Tactics instructor, Blue Courage instructor, Emergency Response Team instructor and Use of Force instructor, he is passionate about training and optimizing the best out of those in our profession. Brandon also provides tactical, wellness and consulting services for his business On Mission Services-LLC. Follow his blog online at

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