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Archive for May, 2015

“Policing 101” Also Means “Corrections 101”

May 26th, 2015

This article appears in the current on line issue of The Correctional Trainer, the publication of the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP) and is posted here with the permission of the IACTP. To see what IACTP can offer your training staff, please log on to its web site at

In terms of law enforcement race relations, it has been a rough year for both police officers and the communities in which they serve. The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and most recently Baltimore, Maryland have turned much attention to the subject of law enforcement and race relations.

Law enforcement officers know that race can be an inflammatory subject; some citizens of minority groups have complained that police have not treated them fairly or that some minority citizens have been unjustly targeted by police. The debate over the events involving police actions and the deaths of several black citizens in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York and Baltimore Maryland will continue for some time. I fervently hope that law enforcement personnel and members of the minority community will learn to get along and respect each other. When tragic events in the three cities that I have mentioned occur and lives are lost, patience should prevail, and the criminal justice system should do its job and investigate thoroughly and fairly.

The law enforcement profession is one that interacts with all types of people from all types of ethnic groups. Law enforcement officers, both police and corrections, are trained in cultural diversity. However, there will be more training in an effort to temper strained feelings and to convince officers and citizens that they both should try more to understand each other. If there are complaints, the perspectives of both officers and citizens must be listened to by each other. Solutions must be reached-but not by rioting, disobeying the law, harassing and challenging police officers, inflicting property damage or demonstrating violently and not wanting to hear other points of view. People that say that law enforcement officers do not teat minorities equally and with respect should realize that these officers will respond, night or day to any call for help, from anyone, from any neighborhood, no matter what the color of the citizens who call or need help. They lay their lives on the line on the street, just as correctional officers lay their lives on the line when they walk through the doors of a correctional facility. Unfortunately, some do not come home.

In New York City, the federal monitor overseeing reforms to the police forms has introduced new training curriculum that advises officers not to be racist, don’t mock others, and do not hassle people for no reason.

Tagged as ‘Policing 101’, the new training programs propose changes as a result of the 2013 federal court ruling that declared the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies in violation of the Constitution.

I read the ten rules proposed in the new training curriculum. While veteran officers, trainers and supervisors in the NYPD will discuss them and implement them, some of the ten rules make good sense for corrections. Correctional officers (COs) are in many ways the police officers inside their respective institutions, correct? Police patrol-COs patrol. Police search, COs search. Police officers enforce the law; COs enforce both the law and the rules of the institution. And-police officers deal with members of ethnic groups and minorities, as do correctional officers.

So-let’s take a look at some of the rules from the suggested NYPD training program and apply them to corrections:

  • Do not imitate the speech patterns of others: Making fun of inmates’ accents, dialects or an inability to understand English is a sure way to make enemies in the inmate population. A sarcastic, bigoted unprofessional CO may think it’s ‘cool’-and when he or she leaves a post, the ill feelings left behind among inmates has to be dealt with by the next CO.

  • Avoid stereotypical assumptions: Inmates are people, and come from a variety of backgrounds. For example, all Hispanics are not illegal aliens. All young black males are not high school dropouts or drug users.
  • Tell a person why he or she was stopped: In correctional institutions, inmates must follow rules and regulations, and the job of COs would be more difficult if they had to stop and explain to inmates the reasons for orders and regulations. Some inmates enjoy asking many questions, as a subtle way to ‘get back’ at COs or harass them. However, many encounters with inmates include the question ‘why?’ or a request for an explanation from the CO. Just like on the street, a person usually responds well to an explanation of why a rule exists or an order is given, even if he or she knows that they will lose the argument and must obey.
  • Do not engage in racial profiling: This is dangerous ground, generally assuming that all members of an ethnic group or a minority group behave in a certain way. Not all young Hispanic males are violent gang members, etc. Look for ‘concrete data’, such as criminal history, charge, institutional history and how the inmate behaves.
  • Do not tell jokes that are ethnic, racial or sexist: As one bilingual civilian jail instructor told me: “Inmates may not understand English, but they recognize tone and inflection”. In other words, they know when they are being the brunt of a joke or being laughed about. It is true of sexist humor-it is unprofessional and a form of sexual harassment-which violates the law. COs may think that such humor is funny-and if they engage in it should not expect inmates to respect them, cooperate with them or give information when asked.

Remember that all law enforcement officers are part of the same overall team. Some of us may think that these rules are trivial, as we have heard them before. However, in the climate that currently exists about people and police officers, correctional officers can take these rules-and refresh their human relations skills.

It never hurts to do that.

Brown, Stephen Rex. (2015, April 21). Exclusive: Proposed federal rules for NYPD training include Cop 101 advice like ‘don’t be racist’. New York Daily News. Retrieved from

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