On July 11th, inmate David Gomez at California’s Salinas Valley State Prison maneuvered himself out of his handcuffs and repeatedly stabbed a correctional officer in the back of the head with a knife he had hiding in his cell. Within the same week, a probation officer with the Franklin County (OH) Adult Probation Department was shot while serving a probation violation warrant at a suspect’s house.
Fortunately, both officers are recovering from their injuries in the hospital. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 7 probation and correctional officers have been fatally wounded since 2011. Approximately 45 have been intentionally killed between 1999-2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But not all assaults result in fatalities. According to the 2013 Correctional Officer Wellness and Safety Literature Review, excluding police officers, correctional officers are involved in the highest amount of non-fatal violent encounters than any other occupation. A study by the National Institute of Justice in 2007, discovered there are approximately 2,000 correctional staff member injuries annually due to violence against officers by inmates.
Even everyday tasks can quickly turn into deadly situations. For example, correctional officer Amanda Baker of the Scotts Bluff County (NE) Detention Center was performing a cell opening when a 15-year-old inmate attacked and fatally stabbed her. Just as police officers must constantly remain vigilant against the threat of attack, those working in institutional and community corrections must always be attentive to their surroundings.
There is also the added of risk of what the job is doing to their health. Studies have indicated that correctional officers have higher rates of suicide and substance abuse than any other profession related to public safety. In 2012, the Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center held the Conference on Correction Officer Wellness to address the growing concern of correctional officer safety and wellness. The conference concluded that every correctional officer should work towards making sure he or she has a balanced lifestyle that includes solid support from family and friends in order to effectively tackle the daily stress of the job. It is important for correctional facilities to provide resources to help reduce these problems and to endorse overall health and well-being.
All public safety officers put themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of the community, and their health and safety should be a priority.
It is the IACP’s position that no injury to or death of a law enforcement professional is acceptable, and the IACP Center for Officer Safety and Wellness strives to improve awareness on all aspects of officer safety. To learn more and to share best practices pertaining to officer safety and wellness please visit http://www.iacp.org/CenterforOfficerSafetyandWellness or contact the Center staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.