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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The lost heroes of law enforcement

Friday, February 1, 2013

You hear the heroic stories of men and women in law enforcement risking their lives to respond, pursue and apprehend people who try to harm others or commit a wide range of crimes. You may even see it firsthand, up to the point where the suspect is taken away in handcuffs. There is always more to each story than what meets the eye, and there is often a hero who is never seen. Some of these un-seen heroes are known as detention officers (also known in the older days as jailers), and they are the gate keepers of our county jail. It was in the 19th century, beginning in Britain, that the first prisons as we know them today became commonplace. The modern prison system was born in London, influenced by the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, who is considered one of the founders of our prison system.

Every day men and women working in law enforcement as detention officers come to the Vernon County Jail and put themselves in harm's way by maintaining security in a building that holds criminals of all types, ranging from theft, burglary, and assault, to child molestation, rape and murder, some of whom would do anything to get away. We take the criminals off the street and put them in one place and charge a few brave officers to deal with all of them at the same time.

Often a jail must be operated with a minimum number of detention officers, making it very challenging for the staff on duty to accomplish what needs to be done and still maintain a secure building. They have tasks to complete that the public often never knows about. There may be inmates that have been placed on suicide watch (this requires constant observation by detention officers), there may be people needing to be booked into the jail (after being arrested by road officers), there may be prisoners that need to be transported to court or another facility (this task alone can be dangerous because the prisoners must be removed from their cell, processed, loaded into a transport vehicle and taken out into the public). During this process detention officers that are making the transport leave the jail with less staff to maintain and operate the jail. There may be prisoners that need medical attention, (requiring a detention officer to guard the prisoner while medical staff tends to the prisoner), there are medications that must be administered, records to maintain and most of the time this is all taking place at the same time. There are countless tasks that must be completed and yet somehow they make it work.

I take my hat off to those who are willing to serve in this way and I am very grateful to have a staff that is willing to stand watch, helping ensure our county is safe. Our Vernon County detention officers should be proud of what they do, and I would like to say thank you to each one of them for their service to this community.