Last Tuesday night, I and my fellow students of the Sheriff’s Office Citizens’ Academy took a tour of MCJ-Central, the Mecklenburg County Jail in downtown Charlotte. As I said in a previous post, there are almost two thousand inmates that are housed in this facility. When we entered one area, the detention officers told us to stand back because they were dealing with “a situation.” I’m sure the other inmates were more than a little perturbed at the disruptive individual that caused them to return to their cells in lockdown. We witnessed the inmate inside his cell yelling and banging on the door. It was clear that he was upset because the detention officers asked him to hand over his work detail boots, and when he refused, some privileges were taken away. At least, that is my understanding of what had taken place. The officers tried to reason with him, but he was having none of it. They had no choice but to order a code that would bring in the DART team. Members of the Direct Action Response Team are trained to perform cell extractions.
I thought a few detention officers would come in and escort the guy away. But I was surprised to see the entrance of a team of men in black BDUs and suited up in tactical gear like SWAT. They marched in unison and went in standby mode in front of the cell. The leader shouted specific orders to the inmate and tried to explain what was expected of him. On the leader’s orders, the door was opened and the team got control of the man and carried him out into the common area where he was handcuffed, chained, and put into a restraint chair. Although the inmate was restrained, no other physical force was used. The DART members did not respond to the man’s tirade of profanity and threats to do them harm. In fact, they never uttered a word. No commands were needed because they are so highly trained and skilled, each team member knows exactly what his assignment is and what needs to be done. Once the inmate was strapped securely to the chair and wheeled out, he seemed suddenly aware of our group taking it all in. He looked at us and with a smile said, “I’ve still got my shoes!” I guess he thought he had won.
The entire operation was over in minutes, and then the DART officers marched out in the same fashion as when they had entered. I felt like we were watching a demonstration, only we weren’t. This was the real deal.
We learned that each shift at the jail has a DART team prepared to go into action when called. As detention officers, they volunteer for this duty. To qualify, each officer must complete 40 hours of specialized training and must complete a physical abilities test in 7 minutes, 20 seconds.
DART members must continually hone their skills by practicing mock cell extractions and other exercises. They never know when their job may include dealing with a major shakedown in jail, putting themselves at risk.
Residents of Mecklenburg County should be proud of these exceptional officers. On behalf of all citizens, let me say thanks for your service. Well done.