By Bruce J. Chapman
I am a corrections officer. I am not a prison guard or correction guard. I am a trained law enforcement professional. I choose to walk a beat through the confines of a correctional facility. This, to me, is the same as patrolling the most vile, inhospitable city on the planet. I walk a beat that your local police officer, sheriff or trooper would not walk. I do not carry a firearm, chemical agent or any other weapon, besides my mouth and hands, while confined to this city. I do carry a baton, which is a defensive, not offensive, tool of my trade.
I am a son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, uncle, aunt and grandparent. I am your children’s coach, mentor, leader. I am your volunteer firefighter, EMS personnel. I am the eyes of your neighborhood.
I am the one riding for Roswell, collecting for Women & Children’s Hospital or representing our community in many other charitable endeavors. I am the one volunteering at your churches, schools, senior centers, Habitat for Humanity and many other organizations.
I am not your average person. I actually care for your community and its well-being. I am not the thug of your community. I am not the mugger, robber, murderer, rapist, pedophile or drug dealer. I am here to protect you from the above. I am not the same persona as when I started this career. I am very leery of people. I get stressed easier. I have seen more in my career than most people would see over several lifetimes.
Often, we are accused of being cold and insensitive. Actually, we are just the opposite. We are always on guard, whether in a restaurant or at the ballpark. We are constantly looking around for anything out of the norm. I have been spit upon, had urine/feces thrown on me, come into contact with human blood and body fluids, not my own. I have been punched, kicked, stabbed, even killed while doing my duties. I have been called every name imagined, yet I persevere.
Every shift I go to work, I pray that I return safely home to my family at the end of my shift.
Are we all what I have written? No! There are some of us who taint the image of our profession. For them I feel no sympathy as they are arrested or walked out the door. Every profession, from politicians to priests, has a few rotten apples. It is our duty to weed them out.
Please treat me with the same respect you wish to receive from me, and I will do no less with you.
I am a correctional officer. I am proud of my profession. I am ever mindful of my duty to the honest, hardworking citizens of my community. Get to know me. Maybe you’ll be surprised at how much we actually have in common.
My hat’s off to all my brother and sister officers, wherever you may work. Stay safe and watch each other’s backs. We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper.
Bruce J. Chapman, of Depew, has been a state corrections officer for more than 30 years.