Training to increase for jail officers

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Lt. Curtis Cherry, training officer with the Curry County Detention Center, reviews the master training manual Monday.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The training starts in a classroom and moves to the floor under the close supervision of a more experienced officer.

Curry County Adult Detention Center Administrator Lois Bean said policies and procedures are the first thing any new detention officer needs to learn but even with that knowledge, they aren’t ready to work on their own.

Bean, who has been at the facility for about two months, said one of the changes she is making is revamping the officer training system.

“I do see a lot of progress. I see a lot more pride in the officers’ faces when they come to work now and I appreciate all their hard work and dedication,” she said.

More and better training, Bean said, will only enhance the officer’s feelings of success in their jobs.

The jail follows a detention center training curriculum provided by the New Mexico Association of Counties, she said.

Under the existing system, each new officer receives a 40-hour orientation period that gives them a basic overview of the jail and following policy, Bean said, followed by 40-hours on-the-job training under supervision of a more experienced officer.

The jail has also periodically held an 80-hour training and certification academy for officers at Clovis Community College.

Bean said she has plans to increase those programs.

She wants to convert the orientation period to an 80-hour detention officer basic training course that takes place prior to new officers moving out to the floor.

And she wants to add a 40-hour in-service training program as an annual refresher course for officers.

County Manager Lance Pyle said training is one of the things that has been lacking at the jail in the past and is, “a very high priority.”

“It’s at the top of the list,” he said.

This month, the county is sending all 12 of its jail supervisors, in addition to Pyle and County Commissioner Caleb Chandler, to a free executive leadership seminar for detention centers hosted by the NMAC and the American Jail Association.

It is part of the renewed focus on training and personnel development at the jail, he said.

“Training will be an ongoing project at the detention center… With the turnover we have, you get the employees trained and then they leave (and) in the corrections field, laws are continually changing and you need to get the officers trained on new laws and advance their skills,” he said.

Ongoing training is critical to fostering a good environment, Bean said, and a thorough, ongoing knowledge of policies empowers officers.

The hardest challenge new officers face is maintaining their sense of right and wrong in an environment like a jail that is dominated by criminal minds and culture.

“In the past we’ve lost (detention officers) and support staff who succumb to the bad elements of the inmate environment,” she said.

Bean is also searching for a training coordinator who will focus on scheduling and maintaining training for detention officers.