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Top Skills for Officer Safety
Correctional officers have one of the highest rates of non-fatal work-related injuries among all workers in the U.S. Most of these injuries come from restraining a prisoner or intervening in an altercation.1
Jails are physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging workplaces, and even the most effective correctional officers can use periodic reminders, training, tools, and resources for continued success.
In our ongoing conversations with jail staff and leadership across the country, we’ve compiled a list of the top skills COs can build to stay in control and injury-free:
- Self-confidence. This is one of the most critical skills to be an effective CO, and it’s entirely trainable. Building officers’ confidence through realistic simulations and authentic wins can help develop their command presence and ability to act calmly and assuredly under pressure.
- Strategic thinking. It’s not easy to think two steps ahead of dangerous criminals, but it can be crucial for maintaining officer safety. Learn from the experiences and mistakes of everyone on your team, and help put safeguards in place to anticipate risky situations and behaviors so they can be mitigated proactively.
- Compartmentalizing. It’s not personal; it’s your job. Some of the most effective correctional officers have mastered leaving their ego at the door. Inmates are going to behave the way they’re going to behave, and the only thing you can control is your response. Removing your ego from the situation and not allowing your emotions to drive your behavior will go a long way toward diffusing a potential issue.
- Integrity. Officers being compromised by inmates happens more frequently than many of us would think. In many cases, the person isn’t a good fit for this profession and no amount of training would have made a difference, but that’s not always true. Good people make poor choices, and providing training and skill-building exercises to help build and support your team’s natural integrity can prevent compromising situations.
- Communication. Speech patterns, word choices, and tone all affect the way people respond to what you say, and learning to use them strategically can help officers more effectively direct inmate behavior.
Working on these skills is part training, part on-the-job trial and error, and part evidence-based practice. You can’t increase another person’s self-confidence for them, but you can use the technology available to you to make better housing and staffing decisions that will keep everyone safer.
Want to find out more about how you can use technology to keep your team safer? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
1 National Institutes of Health