As public safety corrections professionals, we should be keenly aware of the need to conduct both our personal and professional lives in a manner that is above reproach. Like it or not, we are held to a higher standard of behavior than the citizens we serve, and we are under constant scrutiny for everything we do - on or off the job.
Many of you may not be aware that a number of your fellow employees are arrested or become involved in illegal activities each and every week. In fact, in the past four and a half years, there have been 640 staff arrests, of which 433 - over two thirds - were for behaviors like domestic violence, fighting, assaults, harassment, drug use and possession, and drinking-related offenses. Unfortunately the trend for staff arrests on these dangerous activities is rising, averaging almost eleven (11) arrests per month.
This concerns me greatly. The behavior of the few employees who choose to involve themselves in illegal activity significantly impacts the public's perception of the law-abiding employees of this agency. When the bad behavior of the few becomes public knowledge, the confidence and trust placed in all of us by the citizens of Arizona is eroded.
No one doubts that employment in corrections can place unique pressures on staff, yet irresponsible alcohol consumption or drug abuse - which can lead to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) - and a tendency to solve problems with violence are neither acceptable nor wise tactics for dealing with those pressures. To support its employees, the Department offers access to a confidential, free employee assistance program. For more information on that program, please check the ADC Intranet, click on Employee Links, and then on Employee Assistance Providers. You may also call Gail Perry at (602) 364-1895. The Department also provides a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), which is a group of employees specially trained in helping staff through traumatic or emotionally difficult events. Our CIRT team stands at the ready, 24/7. Ms. Perry can also provide information on CIRT, or you can talk to your supervisor to find a CIRT team member at your location.
Another option is to seek one of the many free resources external to ADC. An example of these is found at www.arizonacelebraterecovery.org.
I am finalizing the details and will soon add another corrections-focused employee program that provides education and support for our staff and their families to help them meet the unique challenges of our work environment.
For those employees who are feeling the stress, it is not a sign of weakness to seek help. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength and courage to choose the constructive path, and I urge you to do so. To our employees who have learned healthy ways to cope with the demands of this profession, please keep an eye out for ways you can share that knowledge with others. A chat with a coworker who truly understands the pressure a fellow officer is feeling might mean the difference between a quiet evening at home with family or a domestic violence situation. It also might keep someone from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Arizona's citizens trust us to protect them. That also means we need to look out for one another and for ourselves, when that becomes necessary. I challenge each of you to join with me and all our coworkers in taking action to reduce the number of DUI, domestic violence, assault, and similar incidents at ADC.
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Charles L. Ryan