The Keepers: Appreciating Corrections Officers

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When we talk about LEOs, we mostly think of police. They are out there fighting crime and making arrests to get dangerous criminals off the streets.

But what happens once these criminals go to court and are sentenced (if they are) to prison? We talked to an inspirational CO who shares his experience. We need to make sure we support these very brave, special people who deal with convicted criminals every single day.

Derek Coppes is a CO near Chicago, IL. He works at an adult detention facility in Joliet, IL. He described the environment as very controlled and organized, when it’s run and maintained properly. But that doesn’t mean danger isn’t lingering all the time. “Anything can happen at any time,” Coppes shares. “It’s important to always be alert and prepare for the worst.”

Coppes went on to say that CO’s see a variety of people and personalities and must learn to adapt. He added: “It is actually very similar to what you see on TV.”

He went to college at Western Illinois University and studied Law Enforcement and Corrections and moved to the Chicago area for more job opportunities.

Coppes remarked what he likes best about the job is being on the ERT (emergency response team) and handling all facility emergencies. “The inconsistencies in supervisors across shifts and how things are run are my least favorite part of the job,” he said.

At Blue Love: Off the Cuffs, we are here to support law enforcement and combat the anti-police rhetoric across the nation. When we asked about this epidemic of hatred, Coppes shared “I am disgusted about the disregard and disrespect our law enforcement officers receive. It seems people think our job is only to get them in trouble. They forget that LEOs are trying to keep our communities safe, not just writing tickets and searching for crime. The police and all law enforcement save lives and assist the public.”

In addition to being a CO maintaining order in an adult corrections facility, Coppes is also an avid fitness “phreak” (his brand is called Phreak Fitness). “Staying consistent with my fitness lifestyle is a very important part of my job. Inmates have all the time in the world to work out so it’s key to be strong and ready for any of them that may challenge me. It’s also the best form of stress relief for me.”

Coppes recommends the corrections environment for anyone looking to work in law enforcement, even if for a short time. “I think it’s important to see both worlds: behind the walls and on the streets.”

We’d like to thank Derek Coppes for taking the time to talk to us. Please remember that Co’s are first responders within prisons and suffer the same effects as on the street. PTSIs (post traumatic stress injuries) are rampant throughout the world of law enforcement. Let’s work together to support everyone.

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I am a native Rhode Islander who is a wife, mother, sister, daughter and proud supporter of Blue Lives. My brother has been a police officer for the past 20+years and while he loves his job, the reality of it is, today's world is scary, times have changed and there is a continuous lack of respect for law enforcement. I am passionate about raising awareness on suicide prevention and mental health stigmas for police officers and first responder all over the country. I believe the more people talk about mental health, the less taboo it will be, espeically for the protectors.

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