Officers from Haiti, Maryland partner in training
01/09/2014
Carroll County Times - Online

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SYKESVILLE —The four men in blue fatigues shuffled around the room in pairs. One held a mat as another used a baton to strike the padding, their shouts of “Get back” echoing throughout the room that had turned into an international classroom.

Starting Monday, four officers from Haiti’s prison service began receiving seven days of training on transferring high-risk inmates at the Maryland Public Safety Education and Training Center in Sykesville. Their instructors: the Special Operations Group of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

And when the four men arrive back in Haiti, they’ll teach others the techniques they’ve learned, as the course is designed to train new trainers.

Sometimes, though, the Maryland-based trainers travel abroad to teach the courses. Three years ago, the U.S. Department of State began recruiting state and local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors and judges to help with criminal justice systems overseas, according to a State Department fact sheet. Since then, dozens of local and state police officers from six states have been sent to seven countries to do just that.

“Partnerships such as these enable the state department to utilize the knowledge and experience of actively serving law enforcement, justice and corrections officials to train, advise and mentor foreign officials on behalf of the United States,” said Colleen Neville, spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

The Maryland DPSCS Special Operations Group was one such team selected to teach the courses. The program began in 2011, with the state trainers traveling overseas for the first time the following year, according to Major Richard Bowers, DPSCS Special Operations Group commander.

About 14 training sessions have been held at the Sykesville facility and about eight others were completed overseas, such as in Mexico, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti and more, according to Jane Sachs, correctional training director for DPSCS.

And the experience is unparalleled, Bowers said.

“Guys — when they first come in our agency — they really never thought they’d be training [in] other states, let alone other countries,” he said. “With the guys, it’s a really good experience for them to go down to see how other prisons work.”

They see others using less resources, Bowers said, and they come back appreciative of what they have available to them in the United States.

So, they're teaching the knowledge and techniques they learned in the United States to global partners. Throughout the seven days, the four Haitian officers will be taught about escorting inmates, bus assaults, defense tactics and more from about eight Maryland DPSCS Special Operations Group members. They’ll be learning these tactics but in a manner that helps them teach others.

“To learn it for yourself is one thing,” Bowers said, “but to actually learn it to be able to teach it to someone else is another level up.”

On Thursday, Sgt. James Flannery taught the officers how to deliver strikes to an inmate who’d taken away a baton. He taught them verbal commands, such as “Get back,” “Get down” and “Stop resisting.”

He demonstrated ankle locks, and then the Haitian officers practiced on each other. One lay on the ground and crossed his ankles, while the other administered low-level pain by applying pressure to the ankles.

These ankle locks were a completely new technique to the Haitians and one they’ll teach other officers back at home, Joe Michel Francois said through an interpreter.

The new techniques were helpful, said Patrick Camille, who is a retired New York City corrections officer who now is the adviser to the head of Haiti’s prison. He served as the group’s interpreter.

Scutt Robert, a Haitian officer, said through the interpreter that he’d never forget what he’s learned during his stay in Maryland, and he’s “very happy,” to have participated in the training course.