Remarks by Commissioner Brian Fischer
Training Academy Graduation
Albany Training Academy
January 23, 2009

First, let me thank all the friends and family members who have come out today to celebrate the graduation of their loved ones.

I also want to thank the many staff members of the Department’s Training Academy, and Mr. Bruce Olsen, the Department’s Director of Training, for everyone’s dedicated work in the past several weeks and throughout the year.

To you, the parents, friends and loved ones: thank you for sharing your loved one with this agency. I know you all missed them while they were here in the academy. Your personal support cannot be underestimated.

I also know that you are all very proud of what these recruits have accomplished, as you should be. I also suspect that you are a little worried about their new careers.

You need to understand that this agency’s first concern is for the safety of our staff - your sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

I will not tell you that their new career is not without its dangers. That would be untrue. Managing a prison is serious. I can tell you, however, that everyone pulls together to help one another, especially in times of problems.

To you the graduates: I do not know what brought each of you to corrections, but this agency is glad that you chose us. You are becoming a member of a very large and very professional organization. You are also becoming a member of an agency that is seen as one of the best correctional systems in the nation. If you feel proud today, wait; that sense of pride will only be heightened as you move forward in your career.

Notice I used the word career. A job is something you do to pay the bills. A career is something you invest your life in. A career is what being a correctional employee is all about.

Each of us, regardless of his or her title or position in the Department, is responsible for two things.

We are responsible for the care, custody, control and treatment of people who are incarcerated. While we call them inmates, they are people, just like you and me. They depend upon you, and how you treat them is important.

They will often make your jobs difficult and frustrating. You will get angry at them, annoyed with them, and perhaps even feel threatened by them. It is our responsibility to remain professional at all times, especially during the most difficult of times.

Some offenders will see you as tough, but fair; others may see you as insensitive and unfair. As your Commissioner, I hope your reputation will be of someone who is tough but fair, for that is what being a professional is all about.

The second element of responsibility that you must take upon yourselves is to support and protect one another. Inside a prison, we need to watch out for one another, to work together, both with other uniformed officers and with the civilian staff. This support and protection is critical; it’s what makes us strong as an organization and allows us to accomplish the goals we’ve established.

I know each of you received a copy of the Employee’s Manual. I ask that you keep in mind what is provided there, particularly the Department’s Mission Statement, which speaks about public safety and treatment. The manual also lays out the Department’s goals: to create and maintain a safe environment for staff and inmates alike, and to assist one another by providing the training and tools needed to perform our duties. Only by working together, as a team, can we meet the demands placed on us.

You each made new friends while here in the academy. Believe me, they will last a lifetime if you want. Your individual paths may cross one another many times over the next several years and when they do, you will think back to your time in the academy. You all have a shared history and a shared memory.

You have all done well here. We have given you a basic education and now you are ready to move into the system. Put to good use what you have learned here. Listen to your supervisors and seasoned officers.

Remember that each day will bring a new problem. Learn from them.

Treat everyone as you would want him or her to treat you, including the inmates. This is critical, as it addresses the sensitive and complex issue of harassment and discrimination, neither of which has a place in our agency.

Listen before you act or react.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help; that’s how we learn.

Make sure you laugh at least once a day at all the crazy and silly situations you will find yourselves in.

Do not take home your personal prison problems, and do not bring to work your personal home problems.

Lastly, remember that you are a professional correction officer. Respect that title and you will get respect back.

In a few moments, you will each receive your Peace Officer shield. I have carried a shield for a long time and I am proud to do so. Respect what the shield represents and what it means to be a correction professional. I ask that when you receive your shield, you accept it with pride and with the understanding of the new role you have chosen for yourself.

Thank you, and congratulations.