Sixty correctional employees from the 237th and 238th Correctional Employee Initial Training Classes and the 22nd Basic Officer Training Course graduated from the Steven R. Floyd Sr. Training Academy during a June 19 ceremony attended by Gov. John Carney, state and Department of Correction leaders, colleagues and family members.
The ceremony featured 33 correctional officer cadets and 12 probation officer cadets who took their oaths of office as Delaware’s newest law enforcement officers, along with 15 additional correctional employees and Department of Education teachers who completed academy training for assignment in DOC facilities. Correctional officer cadets completed an intensive three-month program of classroom and hands-on instruction in multiple subject areas, including inmate supervision, defensive tactics, emergency preparedness, weapons and chemical munitions, report writing, behavioral health training, CPR/Basic First Aid and interpersonal communication skills.
Probation officer cadets also completed an intensive three-month program combining classroom and hand-on instruction on skills, procedures and techniques to promote public safety through effective supervision of adult offenders who live in the community. Among the topics addressed in the training were offender assessment, motivational interviewing, substance abuse training, conditions of supervision, legal issues, search and seizure law, defensive tactics, case processing and CPR/Basic First Aid.
"As correctional officers and probation and parole officers, you’ll confront the failure of individuals, but you’ll also confront society’s failures as well," said Carney. "In particular, you’ll confront the systemic racism and inequality that leads to so many of our fellow citizens of color winding up behind bars. And you’ll confront the deep distrust so many in the black community feel toward law enforcement. You can show that it’s possible to be firm but fair, tough but compassionate, even-handed but understanding. Thank you for your willingness to accept these challenges and to lead by example."
The ceremony highlighted continued progress in reducing the number of correctional officer vacancies, thanks to Carney's leadership, strong support from the General Assembly, and partnership with the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware. Since 2017, investments in officer recruitment and retention, driven by salary increases, a career ladder for correctional officers, new promotional opportunities and reductions in forced overtime shifts, has reduced DOC's correctional officer vacancy rate from its 2017 high to the lowest level in more than two decades.
"You are joining the DOC family during extraordinary times when we face the global COVID-19 pandemic and heightened awareness of race relations, appropriate use of force and the power of peaceful protest," said DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. "Lean on the excellent training you have received to be part of our solution to these challenges. And at all times be mindful of the biggest threat to the security of our staff and our facilities, the threat of complacency. Thank you for your service. I expect great things and a standard of excellence from each and every one of you."
Individual ceremonies are normally held for each graduating class. However, COVID-19 restrictions extended the training period for CEIT Class 237 and BOTC Class 22 and, as a result, this event represented the first-ever DOC triple graduation ceremony. In consideration of social distancing requirements and building occupancy limits, today's ceremony was attended by a limited audience of DOC staff and family members and was held in the Centre Ice Arena at the Delaware State Fairgrounds with a capacity nearly four times the audience size. Hundreds more family, friends and colleagues participated by watching the event through an online video livestream, which can be viewed at facebook.com/decorrection.
During the ceremony, Cadet Noah Lowe served as CEIT 237 class speaker and was selected by academy instructional staff as Outstanding CEIT 237 Cadet, Cadet Honorio Torres Jr., served as CEIT 238 class speaker and was selected by academy instructional staff as Outstanding CEIT 238 Cadet, and Cadet Tiffani Hughes served as BOTC 22 class speaker and Cadet Tara Coleman was selected by academy instructional staff as Outstanding BOTC 22 Cadet.
The instructional team for CEIT Class 237 consisted of primary instructor Randall Meding and drill instructor Sgt. Vincent Lewis. The instructional team for CEIT Class 238 consisted of primary instructor Matthew Hopp, instructor Dean Edge and drill instructors Sgt. LaTanya Smith and Sgt. Tyler Wilton. The instructional team for BOTC Class 22 consisted of primary instructor Joseph Sheridan and Lt. Andrew Krzanowski.
Approximately 1,750 correctional officers and 300 probation and parole officers are employed today by the DOC. The graduation represented the third and fourth correctional officer academy classes to graduate in 2020 and the first BOTC academy class to graduate this year.
The new employees begin their careers with the Delaware Department of Correction the week after graduation.