Saturday, 17 March 2012

Farewell to The King. RIP Wiener

For those of you that might have missed the tweets and the Facebook updates the Correctional Service of Canada lost one of the best last week. This is what I read out for his send off. None of this is meant to be critical of the service in anyway.  It is simply an observational piece I wrote for a great man. 

 I lost a Good friend last week. Actually a very special person in my life. So how is it he could be only a good friend and yet a very special person at the same time?  Well, you see it was like this.   Wayne King, or Wiener as his friends knew him, was the 1st partner I   had in   corrections. Wayne actually never called himself a Correctional Officer. He preferred the word guard, boss, line screw, or even  digger pig.  To him these were not words of slang or ignorant shouts, they were badges of honor he earned and wore proudly. This of course is at odds with the new and improved correctional environment but to quote Todd Bertuzzi “it is what it is.” I guess for Wayne the terms he used to describe himself better reflected his view of his job. Whether the now view or Wayne’s view is more correct I have no idea. Something probably best left to that of PhD profs to comment on in the years that follow. But what I do know is that Wayne’s view of his job and himself earned the respect of officers, inmates, and managers alike.
I don’t want to preach to the choir, but indulge me for just a moment for those here today that have never walked on a range. Jails are very different places with a language and culture entirely of its own. Words like Dad, Partner, Boss, and Goof have dramatically different meanings and weight placed on them. Behaviour and actions are viewed and judged far more critically than in normal society. Weakness could get you killed and sympathy could make you an easy mark. If you haven’t been inside it is almost impossible to relate and so most of us don’t. “Just another boring day inside”; we say and lie to those closest to us that have never carried a badge. “Piece of cake Dad.” We lie to each other and, after a time we believe it too. In doing so complete the circle and lie to ourselves. I believe this might be getting better with the new corrections, and I hope this is truly the case, as the cost is quite dear to all of us.
I met Mr. King on a lazy Sunday morning after my 10 days of familiarization training within the jail. I had already graduated from Staff College having been brought in on the military or university-educated program. This program hired ex-military of 10 years or better or university graduates.  I had neither qualification. Having only completed 4 years in military and 2 years of university I was on the B  list. Somebody else, possessing a Masters degree, got a better offer and dropped out 2 days before the course was supposed start. So I got the call, and started training on that day for what my parents had always tried to keep me from going into; Jail. Now after 23 years I do get there is a difference between one side of the bars and the other. But let me also state with 23 years of experience, that we are still both doing time. Within that understanding one of the old keepers had decided that it was best to put this college grad, as it was quite obvious I wasn’t seasoned military, with the Wiener. So I reported to F unit which was “The King’s Unit”,  put my lunch in the fridge introduced myself  as Scott and sat down opposite the heavy wooden desk. He looked over the pocket fox magazine he was reading, raised his eyebrows and said. “ Hey, my name is Wayne King but you can just call me the Wiener. Put your feet up and relax its Sunday brunch routine. Grab a book if you like.” He had nodded and a stack of various adult reading material. Having been briefly introduced to sales and sales techniques I  knew that gaining rapport was important. I also knew that one of the best ways to gain rapport was to do what other people do, or act like them. So I tossed 2 feet up on the desk grabbed the pocket Fox from the pile and flipped to some story in the middle of the book. This seemed to relax  the Wiener and I thought it odd way to start one’s correctional career. About an hour later I heard the large courtyard door lock bang to the open position. I looked quickly at Wiener  who could see the  mirror in the office that showed the internal sliding door. I raise my eyes questioningly while gesturing to put the book down or back in the pile. The  wiener just smiled and shook his head no while continuing to read his pocket fox. The large sliding door banged shut and a very tall man in a suit presented himself at the front door of the office, which was ajar. He looked at me raised his eyebrow slightly and then looked at the Wiener, as I followed his gaze.
“ Sir.” Said the wiener.
“ Good morning Mr. King. I see you have everything in hand and everything is running well in the unit today?  Said the unknown suited gentleman.
“ Yes Sir we got it under control.” Said the wiener.
  a trashcan.
“ Yes sir.  Don’t worry sir I will train him up.” Replied the Wiener, putting his book down for the 1st time.
“ Great.”  The suited gentleman replied as he turned on his heel and walked out of the office and towards the sliding barrier.
 I listened as the sliding barrier slammed shut and the courtyard door banged open and then slammed behind the tall gentleman as he left F unit. Then I looked at the Wiener, raising my eyes in that way one does when asking what the fuck? I watched as a large smile spread across his face, his eyes sparkled in a fashion I would come to know and associate with Mr. King’s mischievous sense of humor.
“ That rookie was the old man, you know the Warden! Follow my lead since you made such a good 1st impression I would suggest learning as much as you can and keeping your head down so that you don’t see him for at least another 2 years, till you’re off probation.”
That was a different world. A world before use of force reports, and endless ticky boxes of policy. It was in a word a Jail. We don’t use those words anymore. In that old world an officer was expected to deal with whatever happened in the unit by themselves and keep the ship moving toward the common goal of control and custody. It was that simple and that difficult. There were no after incident briefings, or Critical Incident Stress Management procedures to follow or to help. You did what you did and went home and dealt with it. We were the law, the Rule of law, and the buck stopped with us on the most dangerous patrol beat any officer could walk. We had to deal with death, violence, and the threats of both on a almost weekly basis. The inside crimes ran the gamut with everything you would find in regular society, with the added spice of the odd that no cop would ever encounter. I doubt RCMP get a course on how to handle adult self circumcision. Yet me and the Wiener had to do just that. In that world before manuals, and policy. Prior to the Situational Management Model, and introduction of mental health training. Before the days of media scrutiny and courses on ethics and values. How did we survive? How did we do it right? Well I guess the truth is we didn’t. Not entirely. Wayne always said.  A good day is when we win and they don’t and we all meet for a beer after shift; And don’t worry kid we got more guns than they have knives.” But in looking back over all these years we all paid a price. Lost a little, or a great deal doing our jobs protecting society. These officers that were old when I started had figured it all out and paid the price in doing so. Now I am the old guard, in this new world of Corrections and I know it is as different today for me as it was for Officers like Wiener. Yet as different as it is now, then, and before. The Kings wisdom holds as true today as it was then and I pass it along to each and every officer I train. Wiener Said:
Kid, before you do anything in here with a convict think what happens if he says NO!” Then ask yourself is what your doing or trying to do worth a punch in the mouth for? Once you know the answers to those two questions you’ll know what your doing is right and how to do it.”
Simple logic and logic that has yet to be replaced with any piece of policy I have seen. That was my partner, my Dad, OUR BACKUP, and my friend. Wiener.    


  1. Old school all the way. I can sum him up in one word...solid.

  2. A wonderful piece of writing, Scott. This one really came from the heart. Well done.