A recent article from the Washington Times profiled an incident in which an on duty Virginia correction officer was terminated after being observed allegedly asleep while supervising an outside work detail. What was even more surprising to some was that 6 months earlier the same officer, Elizabeth J. Rosenbaum, allegedly left her gun belt unsecured on a table in a restroom which held her loaded firearm, cell phone, handcuffs and chemical agents. For that infraction she only received informal discipline in the form of a written memorandum of warning.
In the latest incident it was reported that while she slept while supervising an inmate work crew they came within feet of her and even yelled at her to wake up as witnessed by other state employees. In this latest incident she remained on payroll for up to a year before being terminated.
As a licensed private investigator it would be hard to comment on this event without knowing more about the events and conducting interviews with witnesses and reviewing statements because newspapers don’t always report mitigating facts and tend to sensationalize but there is one thing that is certain.
Failure to safeguard a firearm is one of the most serious breaches of safety and security regulations that a correction officer can violate. Therefore if in fact officer Rosenbaum was witnessed to have not secured her firearm then at a minimum she should have received formal discipline in this case which would have triggered her due process and an impartial opportunity to either defend or validate the charges.
More importantly it would have identified the cause of the alleged security breach as the facts surrounding the event surface and perhaps help develop remedial steps which might avoid a similar occurrence in the future. Perhaps it would have manifested in a change to policy and procedure or levels of supervision or access which might enhance security and prevent a reoccurrence.
In the case of allegedly falling asleep in the presence of an inmate work detail, if factual, it supports a pattern of ignorance to good safety and security practices which can be catastrophic to officer safety and is paramount to the duties of a correction officer to provide care, custody, and control.
Pete Curcio is corrections consultant who trains senior corrections personnel and executives throughout the United States. He was graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY. Pete is retired as a Bureau Chief at the New York City Department of Correction and was an Executive Fellow at the DOJ/FBI. He serves as LET’s corrections expert.
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