Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Responsibility Doesn't End Where It Begins

Too much criticism has been placed on officers attempting to complete their shift duties and not enough on where the actual problem should lay. Most of the mistakes and problems officers face, and make are due to the inability to complete daily tasks and assignments that have been piled on top of an already excessive amount of responsibilities and work hours.

CDCr attempts to hold every staff member accountable for their actions, if it follows policy or not. It’s far past time The Department of Personnel Administrations (DPA) is held accountable for the abysmal hatchet job they've done with the institutional staffing packages. The poor judgment call made by DPA that cut the staffing packages is being felt throughout the entire prison system.

We no longer have enough staff to combat the intricacies that exist and negatively affect the normal running of a daily program. In fact, the staff cuts have hindered the programs more than ever anticipated. Not only is there not enough staff to respond to an active alarm to be effective as “trained”, but since the staff cuts began the overtime increased to the magnitude that the majority of staff look like stand-ins for the TV show The Walking Dead… a bunch of ZOMBIES! How many times have you been in conversation and the Officer or Sergeant begins to nod off?!!! Not taking this as being rude, just thinking… how alert and effective are they during their shifts? Does the piercing stare behind the dark glasses mean they are intensely watching – or asleep on their feet? The answer… DPA DON’T CARE!!

DPA has allowed the state to get more with less and hold all accountable except for their creating a “perfect storm” for mistakes, oversights, and miscalculations without a single word from CDCr or CCPOA. They just bent over and puckered up. Our primary job is to account for every inmate incarcerated at the institutions in and out of the state and during any transport in between. Yet we use a computer system that lacks full accountability.

To correct a problem, one must first look where it originates. Not saying or believing Officers are perfect in any way, but 90% of staff do all they can to contribute towards the completion of their daily duties, complete securities, and run program (if you think I’m shooting too high, think about where you may land in that percentage). Since the staff cuts, that 10 lb sack has now doubled and they still want to try and fill it with 40 lbs of crap.

We always hear the same old lame story by supervisors: “Then why is it when I walk by I see 3 officers sitting in the officer station with their feet up?” I’m not saying that never happens, but what a crock. Speaking for my watch (third watch), the only time to sit down is possibly during count (if you’re not running med pass) or at the end of chow, intake, writing a report, yard release/recall, or an escort/transport. We work a straight 8 hours because we must be available (for response) at all times while on duty. You don’t see administration working their entire 8 hours without taking a break or barely having enough time to eat a snack or a meal. Yet that’s what they expect from us. Many of us leave with the same amount of food in our bags that we arrive with. I’m sure most Lieutenants and above cannot say the same thing.

The blame doesn't end where it begins with DPA. Too many times we have witnessed how someone gets a promotion to and Administrative position and they believe they are the best candidate to reinvent the wheel. They want to change a program without understanding how it’s run. Every program has its issues. Understanding the mission, layout, capabilities, staffing and reasoning must be paramount.

There’s nothing wrong with making changes to remove existing problems and barriers. We just need to have a full understanding FIRST of how and why things are done a certain way. Having a full understanding of not only one mission, but all missions and how they may be connected shows a higher intellect than just having the authority or position to make change.

The under-staffing experiment has failed. It’s time to get back to real business at hand and give us the staffing required to fully operate this institution. DPA set staffing numbers based on a mission statement of an increased mainline and a minimal Reception Center. That goal was never reached. An assessment needs to be done on what is now needed and fill those voids. Yes, we recently got some new staff and that’s great. But it’s a drop in a bucket of what is really needed. 30 new C/O’s last month, 15 more this month. It sounds good, but not enough. Recognize how many Officers are on vacation during this time of year. Add the number of soon to retire, promotions, and those in training and we are still short on the line. DPA should no longer make decisions for staffing when they have no understanding of what’s required to effectively, and safely, run an institution.

DVI is a unique place. We are old, barely functional, understaffed, too many missions with requirements of separation, all using one connected corridor. The separation of programs are in names, not yards. If there’s an alarm those separate programs disappear and are relied on to respond. All the programs have to work together for the whole institution to function properly. Communication between each other is key or the whole thing falls apart. If that is not embraced and understood, we fail. Instead of making inane decisions and changes which creates more work for the minimal staff we have, understand what DVI is about and understand our goals, missions, and abilities first. It’ not just about ONE program, it’s about all of our staff.

It’s time for the department, Administrators, and union stand and support us the same way we have for them. We do not look for or want special accolades for the job we do. We just want to know that our efforts are acknowledged and appreciated for the work we do. And although we may be human and make mistakes, how about recognize the effort instead of attempting to make an example of for being human. 
I’m Just Sayin…