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A Day in the Life of a CCO Is Anything but Typical

October 19, 2022

By Robert Johnson

Department of Corrections

A community corrections officer looks on in a parking lot.

A 16-year veteran with the Department of Corrections, Rodger Rivera knows that no two days are the same for a Community Corrections Officer. (Photo courtesy of Robert Johnson, Department of Corrections)

It’s an overcast day in southern King County, but typical weather doesn’t mean Rodger Rivera’s day will be the same as any other.

A 16-year veteran with the Department of Corrections (DOC), Rivera knows that no two days are the same for a Community Corrections Officer (CCO). This day is particularly different because it features a surprise, a scramble for housing assistance and couple of routine interactions with people under Rivera’s supervision.

The job of a CCO is many things: Chauffer, supporter, authority figure, counselor and more. The role requires people skills, time management and the ability to react quickly and decisively. It’s about helping people on supervision succeed and avoid going back to prison, even if sometimes an arrest has to be made to help get a supervised person back on track.

“You really need to find a middle between being a peace officer and a social worker,” said Rivera, who works out of the Auburn office and supervises 37 sex offenders in Federal Way. “I try to be the best CCO that I can be, the best officer I can be. I’m dedicated to helping people.”

The Auburn location is one of 83 community corrections offices in Washington. The Federal Way team is particularly tight, with Supervisor Misi Liulamaga, Rivera and fellow CCOs Wayne Derouin, Nicolas Richey and Sandra Woods having worked together for more than 10 years.

“They tend to know each other much more when we go out on team warrant apprehensions, working with law enforcement,” Liulamaga said. “It makes a difference because they know what to expect because they have been through the whole process time and time again. They have done so much that people don’t always see. They know my expectations, they know the expectations of the team.

“That team concept is really valuable.”

An example of the team aspect of the job is forthcoming, but back to Rivera’s day.

His first visit is to the home of a recently married woman who wants her husband, Anthony, to be allowed to live with her. Rivera is visiting to inspect the home to make sure there are no dangers that could put Anthony in a compromising position that would send him back to prison.

To get approval for the move, Anthony must have his supervision transferred from the Burien office to the Auburn office. At first glance, that is not a problem. The fact that there is no office in Federal Way, however, is an issue because Anthony is court ordered to stay out of Auburn — which is where he would have to go for office check ins with Rivera.

Rivera is conversational and relaxed when he talks to Anthony and Elizabeth. He is careful to be sure that Elizabeth knows Anthony’s criminal history and that she is comfortable with him living in her home.

“We’re working together so he stays violation free because he does have a lot to lose,” Rivera told Elizabeth. “He’s found a beautiful wife and the last thing we want is to ruin that for the both of you.”

Rivera also explained that the Anthony’s restriction from Auburn could be problematic, but that he was optimistic a solution could be found.

“I will figure out a way to make it happen for you,” he told Anthony. “Worst case scenario is I will do the visits here and you will report to another office.”

Typically, the restriction from going to the city where he would have to report would be cause of denial, but because Anthony is married, he may be allowed to live in Federal Way with Anthony as his field supervisor and do check ins at an office not in Auburn.

“They’re probably going to discuss the fact that he’s married, and we will try to see if we can do something to accommodate them and come up with an alternative so he can reside here while being supervised in another office,” Rivera said after the visit. “If he wouldn’t have said anything we probably would have approved it without knowing that he can’t go to Auburn. Fortunately, he doesn’t want to go back to prison, so he told us.”

The next stop is to see Kyle at a motel where he has been staying while permanent housing is secured. Rivera is there to pay the bill for one more night but is worried that housing won’t be found because a problem came up that morning.

“I might have to tell him bad news,” Rivera said on the drive to the hotel. “I have a pretty good rapport with him, but he might complain a little bit. I look at it as everybody’s entitled to vent.”

It turned out that Rivera’s concerns were unwarranted. Kyle took the news well enough, and Rivera left with a promise to update Kyle that afternoon.

Rivera was ecstatic a couple hours later because a solution had been found.

“Misi, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Rivera said with a wide smile. “We got him housing!”

It’s not yet 2 p.m. and Rivera has tactfully dealt with a surprise and gotten the help of his team to solve a housing challenge. The rest of the day included a couple of check ins — one at a workplace, one at a home — and help with an arrest of someone who committed a violation.

All told, it was a successful day for Rivera and his Federal Way teammates.

“I like the job and I’m committed,” said Derouin, who has spent 21 years of his 32 years in state service in corrections. “I see a lot of good that DOC does. I’ve witnessed that firsthand over the years. If I see these guys succeed, they become role models for other people who are in the same boat. That gives me juice, keeps me excited.”