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Washington Guards Pattern of Aggressive Behavior Merits Termination

The State of Washington Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) has held that the termination of a prison guard who addressed a co-worker in a confrontational, derogatory, and unprofessional manner in the presence of a prisoner and who attempted to provoke the prisoner by addressing him in an aggressive and intimidating manner and poking the prisoner in the chest is appropriate.

Before the PAB was the appeal for Washington Department of Corrections guard, Stephen R. Cram, who had been a guard since 1988. While he had never been formally disciplined before, his record shows he was counseled on nine occasions between 1997 and 2003 about inappropriate comments to prisoners and staff that often accompanied aggressive behavior.

While meeting with a prisoner regarding his participation in a substance abuse program, Cram approached the office of Mona Van Hollebeke, asking if the prisoner was bothering her and whether she wants him to leave. When she responded “no,” Cram questioned her authority to meet the prisoner by asking if she had been promoted to counselor.

Cram then turned his attention to the prisoner, telling him twice to move his identification tax higher. After Cram was still not pleased with the prisoner’s relocation of his tag, the prisoner asked Cram where he would like it placed. Using his finger, Cram poked the prisoner in the chest to show him where to place the tag. Once the prisoner complied, Cram said, “I bet you’d like to get up out of that chair and hurt me?”

The PAB agreed that Cram neglected his duty when he addressed Van Hollebeke in a confrontational, derogatory, and unprofessional manner while in the presence of the prisoner and attempted to provoke the prisoner, by addressing him in an aggressive and unprofessional manner. Poking the prisoner violated prison policies on the use of force. In all, the circumstances demonstrate gross misconduct.

The PAB found the discipline of termination was warranted based on Crum’s long history of demonstrating he is unable to exercise discipline, restraint, and good judgment in his performance as a Correctional Officer. See: Cram v. Department of Correction, PAB No:-Dism-03-0105 (2004). The PAB ruling is in the brief bank.

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Related legal case

Cram v. Department of Correction