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Detention officers learn new control techniques
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More than 100 men and women from law enforcement communities across the county joined together Thursday to learn new techniques to extract uncooperative inmates from their cells without injuries to the guards.

In a time when budgets are tightening around the state, and Newton County Detention Center staff has faced significant cuts, the county was selected by the United States Corporation of Special Operations Group, sponsored by Woolrich, to learn from the mobile tactical lab, as well as instructor Joseph Garcia, some new techniques that just might save their lives on day.

"The old days of beating up inmates are long gone," he explained. "We don’t do that now. The inmates are citizens, they do have rights, but we have to make sure that everyone’s safe. If a riot breaks out, it costs the county money, and in times like now when budgets are tight, every little thing helps."

Detention officers from around the state watched training videos that showed real-life situations, from fights in cells to strip-searching a violent inmate who has a shank concealed on his body, and they were urged to ask questions and share information.

Most are doing without many "toys" in their arsenal, and generally operate with simply handcuffs and a Taser, and some with less than that. Garcia taught guards the importance of flashlights and pepper spray and of giving specific time frames on their commands.

Officers were also shown examples of techniques used as an alternative to bullets — K-9 officers and loud noises disorient inmates and allow detention staff more time to get situations under control.

Newton County Detention officers will practice what they learned next week when they use techniques they learned today to practice in case of an emergency.

"We need to have an aggressive mindset," preached Garcia to the crowd, gathered in the auditorium of Eastside High School. "That doesn’t mean to act like goons, like we’re portrayed on television, but it means to have a mindset of preparedness and to think tactically… When violence happens in a facility, it happens fast and it happens hard."