Correctional officer response to fights

When the alarm is sounded, there is an impulse to drop everything and respond at warp speed, but there must be some type of structure to the response

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. 

When the alarm is sounded on the emergency, there is an impulse to drop everything and respond at warp speed, consequences be damned. After all, we’re saving somebody from potential bodily harm, right? These days, however, there needs to be some type of structure to the response. I’m talking about calm in the face of violence. This approach can enhance safety and prevent injuries. 

First, who responds to these things? This should be predetermined. It helps no one to abandon essential posts or to leave inmates unattended. A whole new set of problems could arise. If you are assigned as a responder, make sure your area of responsibility is secure before you respond. Don’t leave office doors open or unlocked. Make sure all inmates are secure and not left unsupervised. Post integrity is absolutely essential even in an emergency. 

Second, temper your response. You may have to cover some ground to reach the scene. Don’t expend all your energy or injure yourself getting there. You may need that energy to control a combative inmate. You can’t help anyone if you’re injured while responding. 

Third, maintain situational awareness. Remember, this may be a set-up or a distraction staged by inmates who are planning something much more nefarious, like an ambush, taking a hostage, creating a barricade, staging a takeover, or even attempting escape. Slow your roll just enough to anticipate problems that may be waiting around a blind corner or on the other side of that door. 

Fourth, preserve your own safety, especially if you are alone with inmates who are fighting. Take a breath. Communicate the problem and call for help. Give clear and concise orders to the inmates to stop. Do not become part of the problem by jumping in and trying to stop the fight without the appropriate and present back-up. 

Finally, know and understand your facility’s response capabilities. How many emergency first responders are there on your shift? How much help do you really need? Is there any reserve in case you are unable to quickly gain control? 

Here’s the bottom-line folks: Everyone should know their role and do their part. Every emergency response should be controlled by corrections officers maintaining their presence of mind and supervisors directing the response according to established procedures. 

A properly measured response to a violent incident can indeed prevent injuries and save lives. 

And that is Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

For more tips from Gordon, click here.

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