The Tactical Options Team (TOT) at Spring Hill Corrections Facility (SHCF) is barely six months old and already making a difference to frontline staff.
The team was established in May as part of the site’s Violence and Aggression plan to enhance staff safety, wellbeing, and practice. In particular the site wanted to address an increase in incidents, including assaults on staff.
It’s one of eight TOT teams around the country whose goal is to promote prevention first and to encourage safe and best practice across sites.
Designed “for the people, by the people”, SHCF’s TOT is delivering bite-size training, creating safety messages to address local issues, and establishing a Use of Force Review Panel.
At SHCF, the TOT journey has created a safe learning environment. The onsite training and visibility allow staff to reflect on what safe practice looks like and to apply this during their daily taskings.
Senior Corrections Officer Rhys Channon says being part of the TOT team allows staff to step into a tactical role that focuses on prevention first. “As a result, assaults on staff have reduced across site and officers are using their new decision-making skills.”
Over the past five months, TOT has delivered coaching and mentoring in situational awareness, rub-downs searches, incidents around prisoners on the phone, Individual Carry Pepper spray (ICP), and Incident Response. The impact on reported incidents is encouraging. In May alone, there were seven serious staff assaults reported. Since TOT became active, there has been one serious staff assault per month, on average. March saw the site's highest number of violent incidents against staff this year, with 66 reported, compared with 39 in September.
TOT Lead and Site Emergency Response Team Corrections Officer Cory Tipene says the team is a great way to upskill other staff on new processes as well as providing back-to-basics training. “TOT has allowed staff with experience, knowledge, and passion to join a great team to make a difference on site for our colleagues.”
Senior Corrections Officer Wi Mita says workplace safety was the reason he joined the Tactical Options Team. “I want to ensure my work colleagues are safe when dealing with incidents and are going home the way they came to work. My experience with incidents helps me better prepare staff for when they are faced with difficult situations on the job.”
The site has a Use of Force Review Panel that focuses on reviewing incidents on site and identifying lessons and outcomes from them. A TOT member or lead is always part of this panel to provide a tactical perspective and identify key learnings. These learnings are then shared with the TOT team to establish the next month’s training focus.
Additionally, TOT members keep themselves visible by greeting staff in the Gatehouse as staff arrive to work to share safety messages, and they attend unit briefings to provide bite-size training and development.
TOT Lead, Tactical Instructor and Principal Corrections Officer Nigel Holmes says the main motivation has been to enhance staff safety and minimise risk on site by being proactive. “Prevention is key and knowledge is power. The more knowledge that you have, the more the load can be shared, enhancing your work-life and contributing to a safer working environment. Share the knowledge, share the load and you can achieve more. The more you achieve, the less tension you create. The safer you are, the happier you are.”