Changing rules for corrections officers

Sheriff Mims says it's about public safety and securing the jail

Fresno, Calif. - A change in the rules could be coming to correctional officers at the Fresno County Jail when it comes to carrying guns.

"It allows the sheriff to more efficiently run her jail, so if they are able to be armed in more circumstances she can deploy them better," said Undersheriff Steve Wilkins of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

Fresno County Sheriff's Office leaders want "peace officer" status for corrections officers at the jail. Sheriff Mims is pushing the plan to change rules for corrections officers when it comes to guns and legal protections.

The conversation is still in the early stages. Union leaders want more information, specifically about the cost to tax payers. Sheriff Mims says this is about public safety and better securing the jail.

In September of 2016 a man shot up the lobby of the Fresno County Jail. Two unarmed corrections officers, Malama Scanlan and Juanita Davila were hit. 

Shot in the head, Scanlan is getting special care and courageously battles on a long road to recovery Davila was hit in the jaw.

After the shooting, Sheriff Mims wants to change the rules. To allow correctional officers to carry guns in the jail lobby. Right now, carrying a gun is rare for these officers.

"Generally it is transporting prisoners and guarding inmates at the hospital, so they can be armed during those times. Otherwise legally they are not allowed to be armed when they are on duty." 18:32> [Duration:0:09]

Sheriff Mims sent a letter to the Fresno Deputy Sheriff's Association outlining why she wants these officers given "peace officer" status saying quote "This status will improve the overall operational efficiency and safety of the jail personel as well as enhance the public's safety."

"it would allow for a higher penalty if a peace officer was assaulted in the jail which happens often," said Wilkins. "Currently if a deputy sheriff, or a peace officer is killed in the line of duty there is all sorts of state and federal benefits that they get. Those are not available to our correctional officers right now because they don't have peace officer status."

But to make the officers "peace officers" unions, county, and state leaders need to agree. Right now, the concern is the undisclosed price tag.

"If this goes to an unknown cost how do we defend that to the taxpayers? How do you defend it to other county departments who are vying for the same dollars," said Eric Schmidt of the Fresno Deputy Sheriff's Association.

Sheriff Mims says no one should lose their jobs as a result of this reclassification. The Fresno Deputy's Sheriff's Association believes armed deputies can secure the jail at a much lower cost.


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