- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

YORK, Pa. (AP) - When Deputy Brian Rohrbaugh first started working at York County’s Central Booking, he felt like there was a target on his back.

There were prisoners scheming to get extra blankets and food from him, he said. There were prisoners banging on the glass of their holding cells, unresponsive to authority. There were prisoners insulting him.

Just last month, he saw a fellow deputy get punched in the face by one prisoner, upset that a nurse wasn’t there to charge the battery of a stimulator implanted in his back.

Rohrbaugh found that seasoned inmates could pick out the new deputies and corporals and know how much they could get out of them.

But the more time Rohrbaugh spent in the underworld of Central Booking inside the York County Judicial Center in downtown York, the more he learned to swallow his pride. He started ignoring insults, choosing instead to act in a more caring role.

“You have to learn how to treat people,” he said. “You’re not going to please them regardless of how hard you try.”

Central Booking, the processing center for every person who gets arrested in York County, sits one floor below street level, behind secure doors and down private elevators. Entering through the Judicial Center’s basement, local police officers hand those arrested over to the deputies to shuffle the accused through maze-like hallways.

The Sheriff’s Office deputies who run this mostly unseen jail must deal with a wide range of emotional inmates, who might be drunk or uncontrollably angry, all the while navigating them through metal detectors, taking their mug shots and scanning fingerprints.

The prisoners are shackled in pink handcuffs (to distinguish them from prisoners transported into court) and taken to holding cells to wait for a preliminary arraignment and, if necessary, eventual transfer to the county prison.

Rohrbaugh, 32, said he often gets asked why he took such a job. He tells them he can’t point to one specific moment in his life that led to the position - his first in law enforcement.

Growing up in York, he was a fan of the television show “Cops.” He didn’t like factory-type jobs, and after he became a father, the opportunity to work at Central Booking was a good chance for some stability, he said.

But the job proved to be less flashy than how police are depicted on TV. And Rohrbaugh’s position is more versatile: part cop, part parent and part mediator to a group of men, women and juveniles arrested for crimes like theft, rape, prostitution and aggravated assault.

Instead of arguing with combative prisoners, he found it easier to keep quiet.

“Sometimes certain people don’t take to certain people,” he said simply. “You have to swallow your pride and back down during disputes.”

One of Rohrbaugh’s fellow deputies, nine-year veteran Sean Malehorn, agreed.

“It gets to the point where you can ignore the guys banging on the glass,” he said.

Besides, the veteran officer added, “Most of the guys who committed more serious crimes are already calm, and they already had their adrenaline dumped. They will pass out in the cells.”

Still, Malehorn said, some things are tough to get accustomed to.

He recalled processing Scott Anthony Schaffer, who later pleaded guilty to cutting off his father’s head in Hanover last summer.

“He just had this blank stare when you talked to him. That’s something you don’t get used to,” he said.

Malehorn, 36, found his calling to join law enforcement because of his family.

“Having children, keeping these guys off the street is very important to me,” he said.

More recently, he said he has seen younger and younger criminals, especially from York. He said he teaches his own children lessons to stay away from the bad guys.

But like children, combative prisoners often react well to a little nurturing, the deputies agreed.

Just like new officers have to learn what it’s like to work in Central Booking, prisoners who ask a lot of questions and are confused about why they are in custody tend to be new to the system, the deputies said.

“A lot of them feel like they don’t deserve to be here or like the way they’re being treated,” Malehorn said.

When things get out of hand, there’s the “restraining chair,” but it can take as many as five deputies to secure the arms and legs of violent prisoners, deputies said.

“A lot of times, just saying, ‘One more time, you’re going in the chair,’ will calm them down,” Rohrbaugh said.

But there’s often a simpler, softer solution.

“We’ll give them a blanket, ice tea and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to calm them down,” Malehorn said.





Information from: York Daily Record, https://www.ydr.com

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