Forty minutes into the first shift on line and I'm putting cuffs on a big guy. By the end of the day: fights averted, mental health issues addressed; officer issues addressed... and paperwork, but that's okay, too.
It's been two active days since the transition from desk jockey back to officer and it feels nice, useful. More laughter- who the hell would want to smuggle a pair of scuzzy, stained jail panties out as a gift for his wife? Wouldn't that be a lot of explaining? More pathos- a 23 year old addict with veins so bad the hospital had to put the catheter in her external jugular for the antibiotics that she needs to fight the necrosis from the infected needle sticks. More honor- 'nuff said.
Large, clearly angry inmate striding purposefully (not quite charging or running) towards the officer and I step in...
You're outweighed by at least forty pounds, Grasshopper. The threat is exhibiting intent (yelling, fists clenched, jaw muscle clenching); has the means (fists, feet, size); and the opportunity (is in reach) to a clearly ominous level, which authorizes at least serious force on our continuum. There are 74 other inmates and one officer in the immediate area. You are required to engage. What do you do?
I just shook my head slightly, murmured and pointed to the side. He turned in line with the point like it was his idea and I stepped in close and said, "Let's go, I'll cuff you outside." I am good at this.
There's soooo much in that. Eye contact and eye focus. Body language. Proximics. Amount of facing (full on, angled...). Gestures. Rate, tone, pitch and volume of any verbals (half the time I don't even use words). Does it work? Almost all the time, when you see it coming, which may be why for physical stuff my emphasis is on the ones I don't see coming. It's reliable enough (not some recipe of movement and words, just the skill of connection and communication) that I've talked inmates and arrestees in full-blown excited delirium into letting me cuff them.
But it does have the potential to go bad, and if it does it will be very close and very fast and, whether I should have been surprised or not it damn well will be a surprise.
I thought I would be a little rusty.
It's good to be home.
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