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At the Flagler County Jail, Training for Uncooperative Inmates and Lawsuit Deterrence

| August 12, 2011

Mr. Extraction: Joseph Garcia of the US Corrections Special Operations Group. (© FlaglerLive)

The private contractor that calls itself US Corrections Special Operations Group trains prison guards is a leading private contractor in prison-related special operations, from riot control to “cell extractions.”  The company plays up its non-lethal tactics, though in a four-minute video about itself (see the video below) there seems to be more brandishing and shooting and massing of weaponry than in all four Rambo movies put together, and the company’s motto—“one team, one fight”—conveys more of a sense of siege than anything approaching conflict management.

Neither the company nor its poster-boy emissary and leading trainer, Joseph Garcia, are shy about blunt words, if not blunt force: “Quit teaching our officers to be afraid to use justifiable force,” Garcia told a group of guard instructors at another training session in May.

That month, Flagler County guards traveled to South Florida Community College in Avon Park for two days of training with Garcia who, down to his crew cut and fatigues, looks and speaks like a man on a permanent mission. He taught them that if an inmate were to pick up a chair against them, they should be picking up a table. This week, a handful of guards got training at the sheriff’s office in Bunnell, where week-long classes were offered for a few guards from Clay County as well in the particulars of jail extraction—that is, how to get an inmate out of a cell with minimal danger to those involved.

The Sheriff’s department here is the first in the state to use so-called “dynamic cell extraction,” Sheriff Don Fleming said. Two sheriff’s officers received instructor certifications, enabling them to then train their own special operations team in cell extraction.

“We use technology to gain compliance from an inmate, and it’s all done from the highest level of accountability, which is very important, which minimizes law suits, minimizes injury,” Garcia said. “It allows the review process to move much smoother, so that independently anybody can review it. It’s videoed, we try to narrow it down to minimal personnel who’s responsible for taking an inmate out of a cell.” Flagler’s jail has routinely used hand-held video during extractions or other high-intensity encounters with inmates. It was just such footage that showed guards’ brutalization, in 2005, of Lisa Tanner (the daughter of the state attorney at the time) in a restraining chair, a case that embroiled the sheriff’s office—and the state attorney himself, John Tanner—in scandal, a lawsuit and an eventual written apology by two Flagler County jail guards last year, including Brian Pasquariello, who was involved in this week’s training.

“It is the next-generation in the proper tactics for removing combative inmates from a cell, utilizing the latest technologies,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately the old ways of doing things often cost officers in departments a lot of money because a lot of officers got hurt, the inmates get hurt. You know, when you put five guys into a cell, try to remove an inmate, obviously someone’s going to get hurt.”

Now it’s done with two guards.

USCSOG’s Promo

“There’s a whole variety of technology that these guys can use that’s confidential,” Garcia said, though, in fact, there is no such thing as confidential technology or weaponry in corrections: guards may not use “secret weapons” of any sort. Garcia clarified: tactics may be confidential. Asked to specify what actual technologies would be used at the Flagler County jail, he cited Tasers and pepper spray—which are in use already. “I might put a flashlight in your face, and so the light is there from the other side of the door, and obviously I can use a strobe so it discombobulates you and disorientates you. That might be one of the tools that we use, and nine times out of 10 that might even work itself. If it gets to the point where it gets violent, and the inmate I know is going to fight us, then we have access to potentially using a Taser if we need to.”

But what’s new?

“It’s just a procedure, and it’s really taking technology that’s currently available to them, showing them some new technology that is available, and tactics. That’s really the biggest points. The tactics that they’ve used in the past are what’s being used traditionally.” He added: “Obviously I can’t get into great detail because a lot of it is classified, it’s confidential, you don’t want anybody knowing what are tactics are, and that’s been the problem with the old way of doing things, is that the inmates can prepare for what’s about to happen.”

The training, Fleming said, cost a few thousand dollars. It’s part of a continuous system of training taking place at the department, he said.

“County jails, these are first lines of defense,” Garcia said. “People think well it’s a small county jail, but what they don’t realize is murderers come through here, people with high level crimes and low level crimes, this is the first intake into the judicial system, so obviously the inmates are going to test the system here before they go to state or federal, and unfortunately the county facilities really pay a steep price for it, because they’re scrutinizing a lot more, for whatever reason, there’s a lot of blame that seems to go there, and a facility this size, even under 200 inmates, you don’t know who’s coming through the door at any given time because I-95 is a major thoroughfare right now. You can have the next McVeigh come through here, and nobody’s going to know until the next thing happens.”

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9 Responses for “At the Flagler County Jail, Training for Uncooperative Inmates and Lawsuit Deterrence”

  1. Draco says:

    Is it just me or is this country’s police turning into Para-Military. I guess if your a protected cop with a hundred backups and 20 weapons you feel life is just normal. I don’t, I see military tactical training to be used on civilian populuation. I see a very violent future for this country.

  2. Ed says:

    Part of their training will no doubt involve using the projects on Bunnell’s Southside as “training fodder”. Watch for a BIG operation involving helicopters,concussion grenades, SWAT (complete with full gear and AK-47s) and officers from neighboring counties. The last such operation netted a whole nickel bag of pot at the cost of 50,000.

  3. dontbesoparanoid says:

    Law enforcement IS a “Para-Military” organization Draco. They are our first line of defense in this country.
    I would hope that they would be trained to deal swiftly with those who want to bring harm to others.
    I see “a very violent future for this country” if they don’t train. Think 9/11 or other possible threats to our country. The cops are and will be the first to deal with it.

  4. Concerned says:

    It does appear a bit RAMBOish in the video…

  5. County Worker says:

    Last time I checked all the inmates in the Flagler County jail were not there for singing out of tune in the church choir. There are some very intense criminals out there that need to be handled accordingly. I have a family member that is a police officer in a different state and there is no way to describe the political b.s. that is involved in our court system. If you break the law you deserve what you get. Unfortunately most times its just a slap on the wrist. For the record “Ed” no swat team uses AK47’s. Our Special Weapons and Tactics team uses M4’s. A shortened paratrooper version of the M16. As for anyone that thinks cops are to tough on criminals grow up and realize this is not MR. Rogers Neighborhood.

  6. Ed says:

    Tomato. Tomatoe. THAT made me feel better to know that only cute and cuddly “M4s” are used instead of big and scary AK47s. Forgive me for only concentrating on the amount of force used for such a minuscule amount of drugs, that the person bonded out before the operation was over. Compared to MANY other cities, Bunnell IS “Mr. Rogers neighborhood”. Most of the inmates in that rag-tag jail are in there for the silliest things imaginable. Most are “user-drug” related, you might have 3 or 4 robbers but I doubt if they have 1 murderer. Certainly not an AL-Qaeda terrorist..
    LOL. Intense Criminals. Indeed.

  7. John says:

    “including Brian Pasquariello, who was involved in this week’s training”
    Funny Brian Pasquariello is the person that is leading the team for the jail. With the high turnover of correction officers at the facility it is a wonder that the team members remember who is on their team. The facility is a joke and the handeling of the inmates in such a manner will cost the county more than the few thousand we citizens spent on training the people that were brutalizing one of the citizens of Flagler County. Way to go give the person accused of abusing someone supervision over more people to abuse.

  8. A Man of God says:

    Brian Pasquariello did not abuse anyone and even a high influence could not sway the court to believe otherwise. You sound sore John.

  9. Nancy N. says:

    @ County Worker – apparently you have forgotten in your reference that “Last time I checked all the inmates in the Flagler County jail were not there for singing out of tune in the church choir” that jails hold defendants who are awaiting trial who have not been convicted of anything. In addition they hold two kinds of inmates – ones sentenced to terms less than a year (definitely not “intense criminals” by definition) and inmates sentenced to state prison time who are awaiting transfer to the Department of Corrections. Most of those inmates sentenced to the longest terms can’t even be described as “intense criminals”…the majority are simply people with substance abuse problems who ran afoul of the law due to their addiction. The truly evil, irredeemable criminal is the exception rather than the rule. I’m not sure where your relative is a cop but he’s only right about one thing…there is a lot of political BS in our justice system. As far as most crimes getting a slap on the wrist? Well, that certainly isn’t the case in Florida where we have one of the most vindictive justice systems in the country, including being one of only a handful of states that allows no parole for inmates.

    It’s easy to paint the world in terms of black and white when you think you are living in the right…just hope that the justice system never touches your family. It’s easier to have happen than you think.

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