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Video review: Inmate punches officer during jail booking

From jail booking to prison transport, the chance of an inmate attacking an officer is ever-present


Booking is a dangerous place to work. Arrestees coming into booking off the streets are often under the influence of drugs or alcohol and ready to fight anyone in front of them. The chance of weapons or drugs being hidden within body cavities is also a great concern and presents a clear and present danger.

The booking process sets the tone and is a crucial part of ensuring the safety and security of the entire facility. Being prepared and alert is key.

In the video below, a suspect has been arrested for allegedly “attacking four students” outside a Mesa (Arizona) high school. The arrestee then began claiming he “wanted to fight someone.”

Ceasar Meraz was being directed into a holding area when he punched an officer in the face. The video depicts the officer and other officers responding quickly and appropriately.

After watching the video, let’s review some safety and training considerations.

Training Tips

In this incident, the officers did the following:

  • Quickly responded to the attack.
  • Appear to have used the TASER drive-stun mode on the inmate, a technique used in close quarters with many occupants by placing the TASER against the subject’s body and the trigger pulled with no probes being fired, causing pain but not an incapacitating effect.
  • Gained control of the inmate and placed him in restraints.
  • Stopped all force after the inmate was secured with restraints.
  • Removed other inmates from the holding area and placed them in a secure cell.
  • Placed protective gloves on to prepare the inmate to be moved to a secure area and then receive medical treatment.

When an inmate attacks, always remember:

  • Weapons retention in close quarters with a TASER is very important. Do not allow the inmate to be able to reach out and grab your TASER.
  • Ensure you are not placing any of your fellow officers in the line of fire.
  • Note that weapons retention should be a part of regular training scenarios. The sheriff’s department I recently retired from had mandatory annual training for weapons retention and TASER training. You should also practice weapons retention on your own as well.

Safety at the front door:

  • When an arrestee arrives in booking immediately conduct a pat-down search.
  • Move the arrestee to a body scanner for a secondary body cavity search.
  • Conduct a strip search if warranted by your policy and procedures and state law.
  • Once satisfied that the inmate does not have any weapons or contraband, continue with the booking process. It is bad enough when an inmate punches an officer, as in this video, but even worse when we miss a weapon and it is used against staff. Search to survive!

Additional corrections training tips

  • Develop and deploy your interpersonal skills.
  • Roleplay dangerous scenarios in your mind.
  • Stay alert and know your surroundings.
  • Be prepared for the worst and never let your guard down.
  • Always help a fellow officer in danger as these officers did in this video without hesitation.
  • Know your agency’s policies and procedures.
  • Last, but not least, ask someone if you do not know the answer. Go home safe to your families and friends after each shift.

Share your training tips in the comment box below.

Next video review: NM detention deputy survives violent inmate attack

Gary York, author of “Corruption Behind Bars” and “Inside The Inner Circle,” served in the United States Army from 1978 to 1987 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant from the Military Police Corps. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Gary York completed the 7th Army Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership Academy with a 96.6% in the Train to Train method of instruction. Gary received the Army Commendation Medal and Soldier of the Quarter Award while serving. Gary was a Military Police shift supervisor for five years.

Gary then began a career with the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer. Gary was promoted to probation officer, senior probation officer and senior prison inspector where for the next 12 years he conducted criminal, civil and administrative investigations in many state prisons. Gary was also assigned to the Inspector General Drug Interdiction Team conducting searches of staff and visitors entering the prisons for contraband during weekend prison visitation. Gary also received the Correctional Probation Officer Leadership Award for the Region V, Tampa, Florida, Correctional Probation and he won the Outstanding Merit Award for leadership in the Region V Correctional Officer awards Tampa, Florida.