LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Metro Corrections officers are falling behind on mandatory and potentially life-saving training, according to union leaders calling on the department to resume training programs.
FOP Lodge 77 spokesperson Tracy Dotson said the training programs were put on hold in response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. But with more people receiving vaccinations and restrictions being loosened, Dotson said it is time for the department to start scheduling these trainings again.
"We understood last year, pandemic going on, COVID, got the public demonstration stuff going on, but it's a new year," Dotson said. "We're approaching expiration dates on a lot of our training."
Dotson said the trainings cover many important subjects including CPR, first aid and use of force, which he said continues to change due to policy changes and advancements in technology.
For example, use of force policies changed after last summer's protests and demonstrations, but officers have not yet been given hands-on training on how to implement these changes, according to Dotson. He said around 85% of Metro Corrections officers have some certifications that have expired.
"How confident are you at work if you haven't had use of force or CPR training in two years? Probably not very," Dotson said. "Is that going to cause hesitation? Is that going to cause you a lapse in your judgment?"
Dotson said the Department of Metro Corrections is already suffering from declining numbers as it struggles to hire more corrections officers and retain its current officers. He said the lack of training will only create more problems and liability for officers who are understaffed and overworked.
"We can't have that feeling of hopelessness that is wave-riding inside the jail right now like nothing's going to get better," he said. "Our officers are falling behind. As we've seen recently and many times in the past, you never know when those skills, when those highly trained officers are going to be called upon to use those skills."
This comes after Metro Corrections reported an inmate, identified as 37-year-old David Dahms, died Sunday. According to Metro Corrections Assistant Director Steve Durham, an officer found Dahms unresponsive and called for medical personnel who started lifesaving efforts. Dahms was taken to the hospital where he died that afternoon. His cause of death has not been released.
While Dotson said it is not known whether any training issues played a role in this case, it is a tragic illustration for the need for corrections officers properly equipped for the job.
"We can't slack on recruiting and retention in the jail, nor can we slack on the training that those officers receive," he said.