Author: Sidney Lopez, CEO/ Chief Instructor of Tactics & Operations Group-US (TOG-US) LLC.

The Corrections Tactical Operator is often called upon to fulfill many roles. One of the roles that is often taken for granted is that of High Risk/High Value/High Profile Inmate (HRVP) transports. What classifies an inmate as a High Risk, High Value, and or High Profile Inmate? Well, there are many variables that a group of trained individuals use to see what the inmate’s current charges are, what his history is and affiliations to any known or identified street or institutional gangs. There are different criteria used by many states and departments, some are basic but some may be more lax. A brief quick and down description of all three is as follows:

  • High Risk: Inmates who may have a higher than usual likelihood of escaping and if they escape, causing harm to the public.
  • High Value: Usually Inmates who may have some sort of “hit” on their life or there is a high likelihood that someone may want to break him out of custody.
  • High Profile: Inmates whose crimes have made the major news and who everyone has seen. This can be because of the crime they committed or due to their social status in the community.

One thing is for certain, you have to classify all inmates, and this is where the job of the Corrections Tactical Operator comes in.

In today’s correctional world two things seem to dictate how a department operates, budget and staffing. Every department has some sort of budgetary issue and staffing is always an issue, which seems to affect more of the smaller departments. The smaller the department the more “hats” the deputies/officers have to fulfill. This is where we run into problems.

When we talk about conducting the transport of a high risk/value/profile inmate, one of the misconceptions that almost everyone seems to have is that we can just grab the inmate, throw him or her in the back of a van or bus and send a lone officer or deputy to make it happen. Wrong! Whenever getting ready to transport the HRVP inmate, there are three basic things that we stress to officers and deputies.

First, if you have the staffing available, send two officers in the transport. This maximizes officer safety and it may reduce the chances of the inmate trying anything. There is training available where the corrections officer can learn how to deal with such inmates and high liability incidents such as these, but that is another subject. Also, by having an additional officer you can spread the workload and minimize small mistakes that can end up turning into big ones down the road. This also makes it easier to keep constant security on the inmate when removing them from the transport vehicle and getting them to where you’re going. In addition, there is also continuous security supervision while one of the officers removes or applies restraints on the inmate. We could go on and on how having additional staffing available in these types of transports is a great idea but we only have a limited amount of space. Now, two officers is best for standard officers/deputies who are tasked with a transport such as this, but if possible, this should be tasked out to the jails/prison’s tactical team. Having the tactical team assigned to these transports not only ensures that you have the necessary number of officers/deputies to provide security, but normally your tactical team does have some additional advanced training that can enhance security, aiding to the overall mission success.

Secondly, we stress on doing your “homework” on the inmate that you are transporting. Many times, a sergeant calls and hands the officer/deputy a key to the van with a paper with an inmates’ name on it, a destination and tells you “go, take him there”. Been there, done that (not to my personal liking).

Another part of transports has to do with a more current situation, transports of inmates infected with biological pathogens, in current times, COVID-19. This is a more complicated style of transport due to the fact that the transport team needs to be in constant PPE gear (Personal Protective Equipment). This means driving in a gas mask and possibly in a bio-suit as well as the rest of the transport team. This level of transport requires a higher level of training and is a lot higher on the liability spectrum.

When transporting ANY inmate if not given a proper briefing on who he is, what he has done, why he needs to go on the transport and any other pertinent info, then you need to make sure you start filling in those gaps yourself.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for the safety of the public, staff, yourself and the inmate. Make sure you dig into the background of this inmate, if you happen to find out that this inmate turns out to be a high risk, value, profile inmate, then you have to sit down with your command staff and hash out a plan. The last thing that you need to happen when you are transporting an Inmate is to arrive on scene and the media and/or family members are on site waiting for you. Worse yet, arriving at your destination and the victim’s family is onsite waiting on you. Not a good feeling either (also been there). So, thus far we have (1) proper staffing during the transport, more than one is always best; (2) do your homework when it comes to conducting a transport (knowing who you have is key). This brings us to our third category, selecting the proper equipment to affect the transport.

We can go several ways on equipment selection but we will focus on the vehicle and restraints. Vehicles are, what will at the end of the day, make or break a transport. Having a vehicle that is well kept and maintained can mean the difference between life and death. I can’t tell you how many times I have jumped onto a transport vehicle and the tank was empty or better yet, had a flat tire. This lessened once I was assigned to a full-time SRT team and we had our own assigned vehicles, we always guaranteed that all of our vans and SUVs were kept up and ready for a last-minute transport or details. If you have the ability to choose a transport vehicle to suit your transport needs, that greatly increases the odds in your favor. Sometimes having a low-profile vehicle (slick top, no markings) helps to blend in and keeps the eyes off of the transport. But, this is not always possible, which is why conducting a walk-through of your vehicle is key. This is where you can notice any imperfections and make adjustments. Either by just going and gassing up the vehicle or just choosing a completely different vehicle altogether. Always ensure you have a good running vehicle that can get you there and back without any major issues.

Mechanical Restraints are another part of the equation that we need to pay attention to and will focus on in this article. So many times, I have seen inmates who are classified HRVP just handcuffed and or handcuffed shackled to other inmates in the transport chain. That is a NO! NO! Especially if the inmate is classified as a “Nature of Charges” (having to do with sexual charges). Staying focused on high-risk profiles and value transports ensures that you have a good pair of handcuffs, leg chains, and belly belt. We are responsible for the overall safety of the transport and that includes ensuring the inmate has the least chance of escaping. Oftentimes, the officer/deputies get into a rush and this is where they tend to skip a step, and many times it is the belly belt. The belly belt is a crucial part of proper security during a transport. If you’re not sure how to put a belly chain on, make sure you reach out to your command staff and arrange to have a class put on to go over it. You can also reach out to us and we’ll help you out as best we can. Having a belly belt incorporated into your transport program, especially during high risk, value, profile transport would greatly increase your security and safety.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sidney “Chief” Lopez, is the Chief Instructor of Tactics & Operations Group-US (T.O.G.-US) LLC. He has over 14 years of experience in Corrections and Corrections Tactical Operations). Through the T.O.G. he and his team provide quality tactical training for corrections tactical teams and operators, keeping the single operator in mind