The Forgotten Cop
What would the average citizen say if it were proposed that Police Officers be assigned to a neighborhood which was inhabited by no one but criminals and those Officers would be unarmed, patrol on foot and be heavily outnumbered? I wager that the overwhelming public response would be that the Officers would have to be crazy to accept such an assignment. However, as you read this, such a scenario is being played out in all areas of the country, maybe right here in your own neighborhood.
We are Correctional Officers. Not Guards. (Guards are people who watch school crossings.) We work at minimum, medium and maximum security Correctional Facilities. We are empowered by the Federal/State Government to enforce its Penal Laws, rules and regulations of the Prisons. In short, we are Policemen. Our beat is totally inhabited by convicted felons, who, by definition, are people who tend to break laws, rules and regulations. We are outnumbered by as many as 105 to 1 at various times of our workday, and, contrary to popular belief, we work without a sidearm. In short, our necks are on the line every minute of every day.
A Correctional Facility is a very misunderstood environment. The average person has very little knowledge of its workings.
Society sends its criminals to Correctional Facilities. As time passes, the gravity of each criminals crime fades from memory. The collective prison population becomes hordes of “bad” people who are warehoused away from decent society to be punished for what theyve done, and so that they can cause no further harm to law-abiding citizens. The prevailing notion is that prison inmates cease to be a problem while they are incarcerated. Wrong!
Correctional Facilities are full of violence perpetrated by the prison population against the prison population and facility staff. Felonies are committed daily, but rarely reported. They are called “unusual incidents,” and rarely result in criminal prosecution. Discipline is handled internally and, as a rule, the public is rarely informed of these crimes. In the course of maintaining order in these facilities, many Correctional Officers have endured the humiliation of having urine and feces thrown at and on them. Countless Correctional Officers have been kicked, bitten, stabbed and slashed with homemade weapons, taken hostage, raped and even murdered in the line of duty, all while being legally mandated to maintain their professional composure and refrain from any retaliation which could be the basis for dismissal from service.
In addition to these obvious dangers, Correctional Officers face hidden dangers in the form of HIV, Tuberculosis, and Hepatitis B and C. Courts are now imposing longer sentences and the prison population is increasing far beyond the systems designated capacity. As the public demands more police on the streets, governments everywhere are cutting police in prison where violence reigns supreme, jeopardizing all those working behind prison walls. But society cant even tell Correctional Officers something as simple as a “thank you” for the job they do , so the next time you see a Correctional Officers remember he is risking his life and family to protect you from the very people society has locked away.
Although you will never see us on “911″ or “Cops”, we are Law Enforcement Professionals. We are the Forgotten Cops, hidden from public view, doing a dangerous beat, hoping to someday receive the respect and appreciation from the public whom “We Silently Serve.”