517 – Armed Detention Officer Program

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I. Purpose

This policy establishes directives for armed detention officers.

II. Definitions

Armed detention officer – a licensed county jailer who, after meeting the requirements of this policy, is in an assignment allowing him or her to carry a firearm and less-lethal weapon(s) while transporting Harris County Jail prisoners outside the jail, while guarding Harris County Jail prisoners in area hospitals or other outside health care facilities, and while traveling to and from his or her place of assignment.

Unnecessary Stops – an unnecessary stop is any stop to purchase, view, or eat, which could be accomplished at a later time. (e.g. eating, grocery shopping, shopping, etc.)

III. Policy

It is the policy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to permit firearms certified (“armed”) detention officers to carry a firearm and less-lethal weapon(s) during the course of performing certain duties within the course and scope of their job responsibilities. 

Armed detention officers will be tasked with transporting Harris County Jail prisoners outside the jail, transporting Harris County Jail prisoners to/from courts, and with guarding Harris County Jail prisoners in area hospitals or other outside health care facilities.

IV. Qualifications to Become an Armed Detention Officer

Any Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) detention officer who meets the requirements listed in this policy may apply for an armed detention officer assignment.  To serve in an armed assignment, a detention officer must meet and maintain the following requirements:

A. Be 21 years of age;

B. Be a TCOLE certified jailer with an active jailer license;

C. Possess a valid Texas Driver License; 

D. Be in good standing with the HCSO, and be licensed to carry a firearm [see e.g., Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.1993];   

E. Successfully complete the HCSO Detention Training Officer Program; 

F. Successfully complete Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) training through the HCSO Academy; 

G. Successfully complete a Jail Firearms Course (TCOLE #3599) through the HCSO Academy  [see Tex. Occ. Code § 1701.2561(c) & 1701.355]; 

H. Pass annual firearm qualifications through the HCSO Academy in accordance with Policy #702 – Firearms Control, Qualifications, and Training  [see Tex. Occ. Code § 1701.355(a-1); 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 218.9];

I. Be awarded a Jailer Firearm Certificate by TCOLE, and have the certificate on file with the HCSO Academy [see Tex. Occ. Code § 1701.2561; 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 221.45]; and

J. Successfully complete any additional training required by the Sheriff’s Office.

V. Carrying and Storing of Firearms and Ammunition

A. Armed detention officers are only authorized to qualify and carry semi-automatic firearms, along with a Taser if they are Taser certified.  For a list of authorized firearms, refer to Policy #702 – Firearms Control, Qualifications, and Training, Section II. B.

B. Firearms and ammunition are prohibited within the secure perimeter of HCSO detention facilities.

C. Firearms and ammunition carried by armed detention officers must be securely stored in an employee locker in the gym area on the first floor of each jail facility prior to entering any secured area.

D. Armed detention officers are admonished to use the utmost caution when carrying, using, or storing weapons, both on and off duty, to ensure no person is accidentally injured.

NOTE: Do not use the gun lockers in the front lobby. The gun lockers in the lobby are reserved for visiting law enforcement officers and deputies (as they may need to respond to incidents in the interior perimeter of the facility).

VI. Field Training

A. Newly armed detention officers will be paired with an experienced deputy or an experienced armed detention officer for field training and must successfully complete field training before they escort and guard inmates on their own in an armed capacity.

B. Newly armed detention officers should receive a tour of the following hospitals, including the emergency rooms and patient areas, with their field training officer prior to escorting or guarding an inmate.

1. St. Joseph Medical Center; 1401 St. Joseph Parkway, Houston, TX 77002.

2. Ben Taub Hospital; 1504 Taub Loop, Houston, TX 77030.

3. Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital; 5656 Kelly Street, Houston, TX 77026.

4. Memorial Hermann Medical Center; 6411 Fannin Street, Houston, TX 77030.

VII. Required Equipment

A. Armed detention officers must be in full uniform in accordance with Policy #240 – Dress Code.

B. Armed detention officers’ issued duty belts must be equipped with an approved holster and magazine pouch, along with at least one handcuff case.

C. Armed detention officers will not make unnecessary stops while wearing their uniform and firearm when travelling to and from work, unless exigent circumstances arise (shopping at the mall or grocery store does not meet exigent circumstances).  This is in an effort to prevent armed detention officers from being pulled into a law enforcement action by the public, mistakenly believing the armed detention officer to be a peace officer.

VIII. Call Out Procedure

A. An operations sergeant will contact an armed detention officer when needed (e.g., for transport of an inmate to a hospital or to guard the inmate at a hospital) and will provide the officer with the details of the assignment.

B. The armed detention officer will obtain a Taser from the operations sergeant prior to leaving the jail facility.

C. If an inmate is being transported to a hospital from the jail, the armed detention officer will ride in the back of the ambulance with the inmate, unless riding in an HCSO vehicle.

D. If an inmate is already at a hospital and the armed detention officer is needed for relief, the armed detention officer may travel to the hospital in his or her privately owned vehicle if a supervisor, deputy, or detention officer with a county vehicle is not available to transport the detention officer.

E. The classification status of the inmate (e.g., escape risk or high profile) will determine the number of armed personnel assigned to transport and guard the inmate while at the hospital.

F. When an armed detention officer is relieved from his or her assignment, he/she must return his/her Taser to the operations section unless otherwise directed by a supervisor.

IX. Incidents involving Use of Force / Discharge of a Weapon / Injury to an Inmate or Any Other Person

A. Armed detention officers must secure the scene whenever a use of force or weapon discharge occurs in the performance of their duties.

B. Any use of a weapon by an armed detention officer requires immediate notification by the officer to dispatch whenever it is safe and practical to do so.

C. Armed detention officers must follow Policy #501 – De-escalation & Response to Resistance whenever they are involved in a weapon discharge, use of force, or any situation causing injury to an inmate or any other person.

X. Reports

A. The armed detention officer must document any incident requiring a report in the Offender Management System (OMS).

B.  A deputy from the Criminal Justice Command or the Law Enforcement Command will complete a report relating to any incident requiring a law enforcement report. 

XI. Supervisor Responsibilities

A. The operations sergeant is responsible for contacting an armed detention officer when needed for an assignment.

B. An updated list of armed detention officers will be maintained in Operations.  This list will also include the armed detention officers’ qualification dates.

C. The operations sergeant will maintain a log of Tasers issued to armed detention officer personnel.

D. The on-duty operations sergeant will be responsible for completing Blue Team entries for any incident requiring such entry.

E. The operations sergeant will be responsible for documenting the armed detention officer’s successful completion of the required field-training program.

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