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High Risk Inmate Transport

STL Joseph Garcia

Inmate Classification

Depending on the agency, inmate classification is often a game of hit or miss. More often than not, agency classification personnel miss. Unfortunately, some agencies tend to waste time and resource because they misunderstand the difference between High Profile and High Threat.

For example, violent inmates might be categorized as HTI-1 – 4 depending on the inmate’s history, affiliation and background (the lower the number, the lower the threat). There are many considerations that make an inmate move up or down on the HT scale (for security reasons a classified version can be requested later).

HPIs (High Profile Inmates) for example require different types of resources and personnel, primarily due to the crowds and media attention they often receive. We use the HP1 – 2 scale as these inmates fall into two categories:

  • The inmate is known to the public (Movie Star, Public Official, Community Leader or Activist)
  • The inmate has committed a very public crime (like the Rhode Island Night Club Fire tragedy or the mother who drowned her four sons in Texas)

Normally the threat during transporting these inmates comes from crowds trying to get a glimpse, take a photo, or make a statement of support or outrage. These types of groups normally evolve into a situation that requires a large contingency of crowd control specialists.

Rethink Your HRIT Officer Training

Joe Numa is one of the nation’s foremost shooters – a leader in the field of tactical firearms training. Joe – a personal friend of mine – is considered in the Washington, DC and Northern Virginia areas as a true firearms teacher. Joe could probably teach a monkey to shoot and shoot well (no pun intended). “Nume” (to those who know him) understands what it takes to make a good shooter and the seriousness of getting into a shooting confrontation. Nume passionately, patiently and persistently passes on his real-world shooting experience to his fellow operators.

When I asked him about the shooting requirements of today’s HRIT Operator certification program, he immediately mentioned the following critical areas:

  • Shooting from vehicles
  • Passing a HRIT PT test
  • Active DT Training
  • Qualify and pass HRIT school
  • Pass Agency SOP
  • Knowledge of and ability to conduct Emergency Recovery Operations
  • Plan and Conduct High Security Operations
  • HRIT Driving: Advanced driver / Security Driving School

The New HRIT Officer

Even without the kind of advanced training advocated by Joe Numa and US C-SOG, if you want to become a modern HRIT Officer, here are some immediate actions you can take:

  • Always search an inmate whom you are transporting – regardless of whether or not he or she has been searched before. Like the old Russian saying goes: “Trust. But verify.”
  • Be familiar with the history of the inmate whom you are transporting: Once a rabbit always a rabbit.
  • Try using those Colored ASP handcuffs: Many agencies have excellent code uses for these handcuffs.
  • Get in shape. Start by improving your cardiovascular fitness, then move on to improving your bulk.
  • Check in with your DT instructors and take a class on weapon retention.
  • Check with your firearms instructors and get in some dynamic shooting time.
  • Again: Never take anyone’s word that the inmate has been searched. Do it again. You can’t be too diligent.
  • Always check your inmate seating area.
  • Never transport an inmate in a vehicle that does not have a certified cage or shatter-resistant windows.
  • Always scan the area when moving with an inmate.
  • Be prepared to move and act decisively to counter an escape attempt.
  • If attacked, remember your number one priority is to stay alive. Stay in control and stay in the fight.

A Note for Administrators

Inmates have 24 / 7 / 365 to plot and prepare their escapes. You only have one chance to get it right. Count for a second and ask yourself how many plans are being prepared by inmates to escape today or this week, this month, or this year? Whatever it costs you to train your team in HRIT, it’s far cheaper than the potentially disastrous results of a successful escape attempt.

Your people speak for you and your HRIT speaks volumes of how the public perceives your agency. Your HRIT program and its officers cannot afford to be lax. If an inmate escapes or an officer has a bad shooting, your department could be hurt or even worse an officer could be killed. We have seen administrators replaced, fired for such incidents.

The next time you see one of your transport vehicles leave your facility, ask yourself, have we done everything to train that team? If the answer is “no” and you feel your heart skip a beat, resolve that the next time you send out a transport detail, you’ll know for a certainty that it has the best personnel armed with the best equipment and that the personnel are fully trained.

Now is the time to move forward and do something before it happens!

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