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The importance of tactical posturing and positioning in corrections

Helpful tips for positioning yourself in a way that will protect you from a sudden assault

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Sudden assault: Tactical posturing and positioning will allow you to quickly respond to a sudden assault.

Photo/Remington Scott

To take a tactical posture is to stand in a manner that allows you to effectively respond to a sudden assault by an offender. Failing to take a tactical position or stand with a tactical posture in front of inmates can be an easy behavior to slip into. It is also the behavior that makes an officer most vulnerable to an inmate assault.

Fully understanding and applying the basic concepts of tactical posturing and tactical positioning will put you in the best possible position to defend yourself.

Hand placement

Hand placement is key when taking up a tactical posture. Holding your hands strategically will allow you to quickly defend yourself from strikes or grabs, or grab your radio and call for help.

Never stand face to face with an offender while your hands are in your pockets, under your vest, or made inaccessible by crossing your arms. Your hands should always be staged to respond to a sudden assault. This is best done by keeping them above your belt line.

Holding your hands in front of your midsection or rested on your utility belt reduces the distance they will have to move in order to apply defensive tactics. You could even go a step further and place one or both of your hands on one of your force options (OC spray, restraints, TASER) for quick access.

Many officers now wear a vest outside their uniforms. This setup provides several options to hold your hands tactically while still appearing non-threatening.

Feet and leg positioning

Proper positioning of your feet and legs will give you a solid foundation from which to respond to resistance.


Different types of uniforms offer different advantages for tactical hand placement.

Photo/Remington Scott

It would be impractical to try and maintain a fully bladed fighting or defensive stance any time you are interacting with inmates. I recommend standing in what is known as the combination stance, one foot slightly in front of the other, subtly bladed toward the individual you are speaking with, with your hands above your belt. This stance is non-threatening, but keeps you from being caught flat-footed. It enables you to move directly into the application of physical force, intermediate tools, or firearms with only minor adjustments.

Standing position

As a general rule, standing directly in front of or behind an inmate is not tactically sound. This position places you at the highest risk to be punched, kicked, or tackled.

Face to face with an inmate is commonly known as the field interview position. Behind an inmate is commonly known as the escort position. Whether in front or behind, place yourself off line from the offender, about 45 degrees. This off-line position will also give you a quick way to move in and control the offender, as it is similar to the starting position for many defensive tactics taught in our profession.

Secondary officer placement


It is important to position yourself safely during every interaction with an inmate.

Photo/Remington Scott

When approaching an inmate with a second officer, the primary contact officer should still make use of the field interview stance. The most advantageous position for a secondary officer would be directly to one side of the inmate. This places them out of the offender’s peripheral vision, and creates a “tactical L” formation with the primary officer. This secondary position gives you a good vantage point to watch the offender’s body language, and you can quickly initiate or assist in any defensive maneuvers being applied.

Using barriers

Another way to protect yourself when positioning around an inmate is to make use of potential barriers. If you can place a table, railing, or other solid piece of furniture between you and the offender, they will have to overcome that barrier in order to assault you. You can also make use of barriers at your back, but be careful when choosing to do this. A wall does not make an effective barrier to your rear, as it limits your potential escape routes if suddenly attacked. Something like a column placed directly behind you offers the peace of mind that no one is approaching from your rear, but still offers escape routes in almost all directions.

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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.