Video review: NM detention deputy survives violent inmate attack

Working direct supervision alone in a jail pod is not uncommon, but it is dangerous

In the following video, you will see Deputy Edward Downing survive a violent attack by six inmates at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in New Mexico.

The video depicts Deputy Downing working direct supervision alone in a jail pod, which is not uncommon.

According to reports, an inmate on the top tier requests for Deputy Downing to open a cell door so he can give some soup to another inmate. Deputy Downing then suspects a possible fight is taking place and responds to investigate.

An inmate punches Deputy Downing in the face and tries to take his radio. Other inmates arrive and attack Deputy Downing. Deputy Downing fights back and manages to escape the dangerous situation.

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

For anyone not familiar with direct supervision, the purpose is to continuously interact and manage the inmates by being in the jail pod with them. This allows the deputy to identify problems in their early stages, as well as monitor all inmates at one time and control all cells and doors from the officer station.

I have worked direct supervision with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and I truly cannot say I would not have gone up to the second tier to investigate as did Deputy Downing. We never know what we will do in these types of situations but we can learn from them.

I commend Deputy Downing for his diligence and inner strength for surviving and defending himself. This incident is a prime example of why correctional officers must learn and practice defensive tactics during training and on our own time.

Training Tips

1. History tells us it is best not to get into the practice of allowing inmates to give other inmates anything through cells or cell doors. Many times the item or items are contraband going from one cell to another. The soup container, in this case, may have not contained soup.

2. Inmates ask for cell doors to be opened for many nefarious reasons. Here are a few:

  • Staging an incident to lure in an officer or deputy;
  • To go in and attack another inmate;
  • To pass off contraband;
  • To steal items from other inmates;
  • Sexual assaults.

3. If inmates are fighting or about to fight, a correctional officer should call in and wait for backup. When back-up arrives, then go in. In this particular incident, the deputy could have been very seriously injured or killed. He could have also been thrown over the top of the rails to the concrete floor. We must constantly remind officers to call for backup, stop and think, and then move in when the time is right.

4. If a staff member is already involved in a physical altercation with an inmate then any staff member on scene should assist. 

5, During agency training, run role-playing scenarios that present situations like this incident. This will help your staff visualize things that can happen at any given moment.

6. As individuals, we all must learn to run through the "what-if" incidents that can occur in a pod or dorm and have a plan of action ready for each. Get that brain training going every shift!

7. Last, but not least, you must always know your agency's policies and procedures.

Share your training tips in the comment box below. 

Next video review: Inmate punches officer during jail booking

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