Minimizing Injury in Probation Officer Encounters in Rural California
Imperial County, CA, is a far reach from the densely populated cities and beaches that characterize much of the state. With a total population of nearly 175,000 the southern California county is two hours from the nearest major metropolitan area of San Diego, making it paramount that Imperial County probation officers do all they can to minimize injuries in the field, especially when they are charged with potentially dangerous activities like conducting residential entries and searches and seizures.
The Imperial County Probation Department supervises an average of 3,000 adult and juveniles that have previously been in contact with the justice system on court-ordered probation or in diversion programs. The department supervises and provides case management services for offenders, participates in high-profile task force assignments, and oversees a juvenile detention facility. While its officers attend a corrections academy when they are hired, follow-up safety or tactical training is not conducted on a regular basis.
In April 2011, the agency chief requested a safety audit of the department. A subsequent report, prepared by the National Institute of Corrections, recommended that officers receive additional training in the use of force, control tactics, search and seizure, and general safety skills, and that armed officers receive training in judgmental shooting situations. Since the report was published, the department has experienced significant turnover in various leadership positions, making it difficult to implement the suggested training. Imperial County recognized the enduring need to provide its officers with additional safety and tactical training and reached to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) for assistance.
Providing Safety and Tactical Training
To help curate a specific training program for probation officers, BJA NTTAC designated the Community Corrections Institute (CCI) to provide training and technical assistance (TTA) to the Imperial County Probation Department. As part of the assistance, CCI conducted an analysis of the current situation to better understand the unique needs of the department and tailored a program with training sessions to meet those needs. In September 2014, Imperial County Probation Department participated in two training programs offered by CCI: the Natural Response Control Tactics and The Tactical Probation Officer (PO).
- Natural Response Control Tactics. This training program is specifically designed for parole, probation, and community corrections officers. The program provides tactics that can be applied in situations that might lead to officer injury or death. During this three-day training, officers learn how to avoid and control potentially harmful situations by employing defensive tactics in a way that can reduce the risk of injury to the officer and the aggressor. Participants learn control techniques that will help them respond appropriately to varying levels of force. The strategies can be learned quickly, applied easily, and retained, irrespective of the aggressor’s size, strength, age, or gender.
- The Tactical PO. Participants in this training program receive instruction on the most up-to-date tactics and strategies in building entry, arrests, and personal defense. Officers learn proven defensive tactics, disarming techniques, and tactical entry planning. After completing the training program, officers can identify and respond appropriately to all threat levels, develop safe and effective building entry and tactical arrest plans, and take resistant offenders into custody.
The training program offered by CCI provided skills that can be used as the basis for continued in-house training in Imperial County. Since the curriculum was executed, Imperial County has set up a monthly training schedule for the search team and task force officers, which includes an hour of entry training and an hour of defensive tactics. In addition, Imperial County instructors are sharing the skills they learned with other officers that work in field services and the juvenile detention facility. Per Imperial County, the training program has been extremely helpful when it comes to searches and warrant services, as officers are more aware of their surroundings; officers know how to clear rooms safely and have stated that they feel more confident when doing so. By receiving training from CCI, officers have learned to proactively minimize injury risk to themselves and the individuals they supervise.
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