Top 2 Misconceptions About Correctional Officers Using Mobile Scanners (and Why They’re Wrong)
“Does carrying SPARTAN pose safety risks to my correctional officers? Is it distracting?”
“I don’t want my officers staring at a screen during their shift. I want them looking at inmates.”
These are all typical questions and concerns asked by jail command staff when looking into mobile guard tour system or inmate tracking platform. Are they valid? Does SPARTAN put correctional officers’ safety at risk?
In this blog, we’ll address, unequivocally, why SPARTAN is the safest mobile solution for correctional officers. Before we get started, let’s briefly discuss the common misconceptions about mobile scanners used within correctional facilities.
Misconception #1: Corrections staff will stare at the screen and not keep eyes on inmates
It’s not a secret that people, especially young adults, spend a lot of their free time with their heads buried in a smartphone, so it’s not unrealistic to worry that correctional officers will exhibit that same behavior with a mobile scanner during their shift.
It’s cause for concern because officers might never look up and be harmed by a disgruntled offender or become unaware of suspicious or dangerous inmate behavior.
However, mobile scanners used for guard tour and inmate documentation is not the same as smartphones. Effective mobile devices remove the appealing, distracting features of smartphones, like access to apps, social media, and internet. They’re locked down, only allowing your jail’s line staff to focus on and conduct work-related activities.
Misconception #2: Correctional officers have to carry the mobile scanner in their hands during the entire shift
The second misconception about using a mobile device within corrections is that officers will have to carry the device in their hand and continuously scanning during their entire shift.
Being assigned a mobile device during your shift isn’t any different than being issued a flashlight, taser, or radio. Like those other tools, mobile scanners like SPARTAN, are ever-present for your use. Take it out and use it when you need to. Have it remained holstered when you don’t.
The frequency and duration of use with devices such as SPARTAN can vary from your specific job responsibilities to use cases, but you’re never going to be using the device 100% of the time.
For example, if you’re a line officer responsible for conducting security checks and cell checks in designated housing units, your frequency of use is high -- including as often as every 10-15 minutes, but your duration of use is going to be short.
Conversely, if you’re using something like SPARTAN to log recreation or meal offerings, your frequency of use may be more limited, but the duration of use may be a bit longer depending on the total number of inmates being offered recreation or meals. If you have 48 inmates lined up to receive a meal tray and your workflow calls for each inmate being scanned by their RFID wristband or RFID Card, you may be using the scanner longer than someone logging security rounds.
How SPARTAN from GUARDIAN RFID Increases Correctional Officer Safety and Awareness
These two misconceptions surrounding the use of mobile scanners in corrections revolve around the concern that officers’ safety and effectiveness will become compromised. So, it’s understandable to ask, “Will using SPARTAN put my facility’s safety and security at risk?”
To put it simply, no, SPARTAN does not compromise a jail’s level of safety and security. In fact, carrying SPARTAN can actually increase your officers’ safety and security in ways you might not have previously considered.
The SPARTAN is designed with specific features and functions to directly address officer safety.
SPARTAN is Portable (Belt Holster or Cargo Pants Pocket)
There are several ways that SPARTAN supports your portability requests, directly addressing misconception #2 (Officers needing to hold a mobile scanner in their hand during their whole shift).
Here are some of the most common approaches.
Model 763 Universal Portable Radio Holder from Safariland
This open leather radio holster from Safariland is a common choice that fits SPARTAN just right. This holster weaves onto 2.25” duty belts quickly. It also securely holsters your SPARTAN, including an adjustable velcro strap to tighten the holster’s grip to your device, if necessary. The list price for Model 763 is $36.50, though most law enforcement agencies benefit from lower pricing.
For end users seeking an affordable holster that can be issued to all individual staff members (or shared) and like the convenience of clipping a holster onto your duty belt, our nylon holster provides the speed and simplicity you may be looking for. This nylon holster provides secure pouch support to ensure that SPARTAN fits snug into your holster without it slipping or falling out. It easily supports corrections officers running with it on. In the unlikely event you’re doing cartwheels down the hallway, SPARTAN should still remain seated in the pouch holster.
Cargo pants pocket
The most common method of carrying your SPARTAN is in your cargo pants pocket. SPARTAN is nearly the same length as your iPhone X and your Samsung Galaxy S10. It fits generally in most cargo pants pockets. This approach also helps preserve the limited real estate on your duty belt, which has a lot of competition for space.
Another example of a cost-effective portability solution is using a carabiner. Many corrections professionals will attach a carabiner to their stab vest (if your daily uniform calls for one) or to their duty belt, and connect the carabiner to the SPARTAN’s hand strap.
SPARTAN is as Safe and Portable as your Radio
Another concern that arises for command staff is that by having a mobile device, officers aren’t as able to easily defend themselves in an altercation.
This is addressed by three SPARTAN features: its portability, the hand strap, and its corrections-grade durability.
SPARTAN is incredibly portable. If it’s not currently in use for documentation or activity logging, officers will have it holstered in one way or another. This allows officers to be vigilant and prepared.
Secondly, if an officer needed to defend themselves while using SPARTAN, the hand strap enables them to use an open-hand strike. This way, jail staff can still have possession of the device, defend themselves, and even use SPARTAN as a sort of defense weapon.
Lastly, SPARTAN’s durability enables corrections officers to drop the ruggedized Android device onto the ground and take care of the altercation. SPARTAN is drop proof up to 10 feet. It’s built to be used in correctional facilities. So, if you’re completing meal pass or head count and a fight breaks out within the unit, let the device fall to the floor and resolve the fight.
Corrections Officers Maintain Focus with SPARTAN
The WordBlock, Talk-to-Text, and Audible chime features allow jail staff keep their eyes on inmates and be more vigilant while documenting with SPARTAN.
WordBlocks are canned, predetermined words or phrases that officers can easily select during cell checks and activity logging. Selecting one or more WordBlocks takes a matter of seconds, an incredibly short amount of time spent having eyes off inmates.
Watch this video clip to see it for yourself:
When more description is required than can be provided from WordBlocks, jail staff can use the Talk-to-Text feature. It takes a quick second to look at SPARTAN and click the microphone icon. Then, the officer can look back up at the inmate(s) and dictate the observation. Once they’re satisfied with their note, the officer takes a second or two to look back at the SPARTAN and hits save. Again, it is a minimal amount of time your staff will be taking their eyes off the inmates.
Watch this video to see it for yourself:
The only requirement for SPARTAN to successfully scan an RFID tag is that it must be within proximity of the tag. This means that staff can scan tags while never looking down or taking their eyes off an offender. And When successfully scanning a Hard Tag, inmate wristband, or inmate ID card, the SPARTAN will make an audible chime.
To hear the audible chime, watch this short video clip:
Jail Staff Capture More Data with GUARDIAN RFID
Another way SPARTAN improves officer safety is by enabling your staff to collect data more easily, promoting them to increase the amount of detail in each observation.
This is accomplished by leveraging the following SPARTAN features: WordBlocks, Talk-to-Text, and photo + video capture.
WordBlocks are canned, predetermined words or phrases that officers can easily select during cell checks and activity logging. Selecting WordBlocks takes a matter of seconds. Because it’s quick and easy, officers will often select and log more observations than if they were using a paper log or typing on a computer.
Watch this video clip to see if for yourself:
When officers need to log a more complex, detailed note, jail staff can easily click on the microphone icon and use the Talk-to-Text feature. This enables your staff to document a highly detailed observation or situation within a matter of seconds, something not likely to occur if using a manual-based approach.
Watch this video to see if for yourself:
Photo + Video Capture
The first-person vantage point helps overcome blind spots many fixed cameras cannot overcome, which are often unable to provide adequate visibility deep into inmate cells. The ability to capture sight and sound also provides compelling, unequivocal evidence of inmate non-compliance or hostile behavior. The same can hold true for staff members, which can record any staff member’s demeanor towards inmates as well.
To see this feature in action, watch this video:
At Kerr Co. Jail in Kerrville, Texas, Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer requires his staff to use SPARTAN to frequently capture video of inmates using SPARTAN. The first-person vantage point helps overcome blind spots many fixed cameras cannot overcome, which are often unable to provide adequate visibility deep into inmate cells.
Fort Bend Co. Jail in Richmond, Texas also captures a substantial amount of video with SPARTAN for many of the same reasons as Kerr Co. Jail. Both agencies also leverage video because of the State of Texas’ newly signed Sandra Bland Act that requires electronic monitoring of inmates at regular intervals.
Each video clip provides sight and sound to demonstrate compliance, and validate interactions between inmates and staff members. This digital video evidence eliminates one staff or inmate’s word against the other. In fact, the digital video evidence is the unbiased, neutral party that protects against frivolous allegations or improprieties from either party. The use of video or photographic evidence gathering by SPARTAN is one demonstrable way to maximize safety and security.
Inmates Are Held Accountable
Inmates quickly realize they’re going to be held more accountable for their actions and improve their behavior when they see your team is equipped with SPARTAN. This is because of the speed and efficiency SPARTAN provides to collect digital evidence of compliant (or non-compliant) behavior.
Sergeant First Class Harlan Kefalas discusses in the “Art of Presence” how soldiers expect at some point for leaders to check on them. “If they know nobody is ever going to care, then they are much more likely to do wrong. But if they expect that someone will observe their performance, then they are much more likely to do right instead.”
The same is true for inmates. Your physical presence maintains order, especially when they realize that all of their behaviors, actions, and activities are documented and can be used as evidence.
The conspicuous, high-frequency documentation with SPARTAN, alongside your team’s physical presence, will likely result in inmates voluntarily standing straighter, reduce verbal sparring, and improve their general behavior.
Mobile devices for corrections professionals can offer a powerful set of capabilities that are highly portable and easy to access.
Mobility provides correctional officers and deputies the advantage of seeing and hearing inmate actions that they might have otherwise missed if they’re routinely working behind a desk or returning to a control room frequently throughout their shift.
Inmates are more likely to maintain compliant behavior in the presence of staff members carrying mobile devices because of how easy they can capture digital evidence of non-compliant or hostile actions.
Mobile devices are an important step in your effort to digitally transform your facility to maximize compliance and defensibility. By equipping front line officers with tools to capture a wide range of interactions and activities, you can maintain order, realize workflow consistency, and measure inmate and staff accountability in ways not previously possible.