‘It’s not TV – it’s real stuff’: DOC honors slain correctional officer during graduation ceremony

DOVER —- Life does inevitably go on, even if sometimes in a sadder mood.

The Delaware Department of Correction saluted the memory of the late Lt. Steven R. Floyd on Friday afternoon at the same time it welcomed 39 new staff members to its self-described family during a graduation ceremony.

Officer Floyd, age 47, died during an inmate takeover at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna during a siege between Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and posthumously received the DOC’s highest award, the Medal of Valor, on Friday.

Additionally, the late Officer Floyd was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant.

Nearing the completion of training, 13 members of the class were at the maximum security facility when the incident unfolded. It was an unfortunate lesson in just how dangerous their profession is.

Steven Floyd Jr. receives a Medal of Valor in honor of his late father Steven Sr. from Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps. Joining them is the late Steve Sr.’s grandchildren and son-in-law Tyree White. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Primary instructor Bernell Williams told the recruits afterward that it showed just “what corrections [work] can be.

“It’s not TV, it’s real stuff.”

Said director of training Ron Sauls, “When a family has tragedy, family pulls together and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps offered a Winston Churchill quote that included, in part, “The ability to run towards danger speaks volumes about your character.”

Turning to the recruits, Mr. Phelps followed with, “please know we believe in you, we wish you luck, and be safe.”

Mr. Phelps spoke to the audience a second time after first asking if any media members were still present and then ordering two remaining newspaper reporters from the building.

“Commissioner Phelps asked the media to leave the gym so he could enjoy a private moment with his ‘DOC Family,’ ” DOC spokesman Jayme Gravell explained afterward via e-mail. “Thank you for understanding.”

The trainees began an 11-week course in November and Mr. Williams said they became proficient at every part of the curriculum they were presented with.

Delaware correctional officers bow their heads in a moment of silence for Sgt. Steven Floyd during the Correctional Employee Initial Training Course graduation at the Delaware Department of Correction Employee Development Center. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Williams pointed to a position that’s much tougher than it may look to an outsider, with the challenge remaining professional even when being “cussed out,” “talked about,” and dealing with “uncooperative” attitudes.

The instructor urged the new correctional officers to “be professional, carry [yourself] in the highest regard and [take the] mission statement to heart.”

Trainee Jeremiah Purnell earned honors as the most outstanding cadet in the class.

Death investigation ongoing

On Friday, Delaware State Police said investigation into Lt. Floyd’s death continues with homicide detectives being assisted by the DOC.

“Because of the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident, this investigation is expected to be lengthy and arduous,” spokesman Master Cpl. Gary E. Fournier said.

“Detectives will be conducting hundreds of interviews and must collect and examine countless pieces of physical and video evidence. At this time, Building C is still being held as a crime scene.”

State Police said no specific details would be released at this tim to not jeopardize the investigation. Updates will be provided if and when circumstances warrant, authorities said.

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