New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates, by M

New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates, by M

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:17 am

New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates
JULY 21, 2014



The review is part of a broader investigation looking into violence and corruption at Rikers Island. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

New York City’s Department of Investigation has begun a review of scores of cases involving inmates at Rikers Island who were assaulted by correction officers and suffered serious injuries.

The department, which combats corruption in city agencies, is looking into the 129 cases from an 11-month period in 2013 that were detailed in an article in The New York Times last week, said Diane Struzzi, the department’s spokeswoman.

The injuries were the focus of a secret report, completed this year by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and obtained by The Times, highlighting a culture of violence that, in particular, victimizes inmates with mental illnesses.

The review of the cases is now part of a broader investigation that the watchdog agency has been conducting at Rikers involving violence and corruption. It is being staffed by 30 investigators, including 19 who work on the inquiry full time. Already, eight correction officers and a captain have been arrested, and charged with assaults on inmates, contraband smuggling and falsifying documents to cover up malfeasance.

Mark G. Peters, the commissioner for the city's Department of Investigation, said in an interview on Monday that reforming Rikers Island was a significant priority. Credit John Minchillo/Associated Press

In an interview on Monday, Mark G. Peters, the department’s commissioner, called Rikers Island “a significant priority” for his agency, and said his investigators are trying to determine the “scope and contours of the problem” at the jail complex.

He emphasized that issues at Rikers appeared to go beyond mere brutality, and highlighted in particular efforts to cover up incidents. He described a case from October in which three correction officers assaulted an inmate, then, with the help of a captain, fabricated evidence to make it look as if the man tried to hang himself with his own pants.

In a video of the episode viewed by The Times, the officers can be seen scuffling with the inmate at the cell’s threshold, then pushing their way inside. They spent about three minutes there, during which, according to the Investigation Department, they threw the inmate to the floor and repeatedly kicked and punched him in the head and torso. A minute later, according to the video, a captain entered the cell and was heard by a nearby inmate discussing how to handle the situation, the department said.

Correction Department rules permit officers to enter an inmate’s cell only when there is an immediate threat, such as a suicide attempt.

In the 15 minutes that followed, the captain is seen heading to a jail clinic, where she fashions a noose out of the inmate’s pants, twisting the legs and tying them together in a loop. She then places the pants on the floor and uses a digital camera to take photographs that the department said were eventually uploaded to the Correction Department’s incident reporting system.

The case is troubling “because there was a supervisor whose job it was to make sure that we follow the rules who manufactured evidence to help the people she supervises to break the rules,” Mr. Peters said. “That’s an attack not on an individual inmate, but upon the justice system and civil order.”

The Investigation Department referred the case to the Bronx district attorney’s office for prosecution in March and then raised it with prosecutors again in June in a letter. With any case referred to prosecutors, Mr. Peters said, there is a “careful review by a number of veteran prosecutors” at the department “who conclude that there is a criminal matter that can be prosecuted.”

Even so, last week Robert T. Johnson, the Bronx district attorney, declined to prosecute the matter.

The department’s inquiry into Rikers, which began in June, followed a stream of revelations published in The Times and elsewhere about serious problems at the jail complex. In the last nine months, one inmate, a mentally ill Marine Corps veteran, died in an overheated cell, while another died after being locked in a cell for seven days, naked and covered in feces.

Document: A June 2014 Letter From the New York City Department of Investigation

The City of New York
Department of Investigation


Inspector General Jennifer Sculco
80 Maiden Lane
New York, New York 10038

Hon. Robert Johnson
Office of the Bronx District Attorney
198 East 161st Street
Bronx, New York 10451

Dear District Attorney Johnson:

The Department of Investigation ("DOI") has been conducting a broad investigation of issues relating to the Department of Correction ("DOC") [DELETE]. As a result of our ongoing investigation, DOI has established evidence of a series of criminal acts that we now formally refer to you for prosecution. [1]

Because DOI's investigation is ongoing, we may have additional referrals, and the facts in this letter are not the full extent of our findings, which will be presented, as is DOI practice, in a public report at the conclusion of the investigation. We believe, however, that the criminal acts described below require immediate attention and so present them to your office prior to our full report.

Captain [DELETE] and Correction Officers [DELETE], [DELETE] & [DELETE] [DELETE]:

Based on a review of various DOC records and photographs, interviews of inmates and officers, and a review of video surveillance footage, DOI determined the following:

On October 30, 2013, Correction Officers ("COs") [DELETE], [DELETE] and [DELETE] assaulted inmate [DELETE] inside his cell at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center ("OBCC") on Rikers Island. The evidence further shows that COs [DELETE], [DELETE] and [DELETE] entered [DELETE]'s cell in violation of DOC "Use of Force" guidelines, which, among other things, prohibited the officers from entering the cell in which [DELETE] was confined in the absence of an immediate threat. [2] Nevertheless, in violation of this directive and in the absence of an immediate threat, COs [DELETE], [DELETE] and [DELETE] entered the cell and threw inmate [DELETE] to the floor and proceeded to kick and strike him about his torso and face. Photographic evidence shows that inmate [DELETE] sustained substantial abrasions and contusions to his facial area as a result of COs [DELETE], [DELETE] and [DELETE]'s use of force against him.

DOI's investigation established that, in an effort to demonstrate an "immediate threat" necessary to justify their entry into inmate [DELETE]'s cell and the resulting use of physical force against [DELETE], COs [DELETE] and [DELETE] each filed a false Use of Force report with DOC which contained a fictionalized version of the incident that [DELETE] had attempted to commit suicide inside the cell by fashioning a noose out of his pants and hanging himself from a table located in the rear of his cell.

DOI's investigation further determined that, after responding to the scene of the assault against inmate [DELETE], Captain [DELETE] directly participated in the cover up of the unnecessary use of force against [DELETE] by fashioning a "noose" from a pair of DOC issued inmate pants and then subsequently documenting the fabricated noose in photographs which were later uploaded to DOC's incident reporting system to be used as evidence in official DOC proceedings relating to the incident.

Of particular significance, during the course of the investigation, DOI obtained the following evidence:

• A review by DOI of video surveillance from the housing area corroborates inmate [DELETE]'s version of events and the assault, and is inconsistent with the Use of Force reports submitted by COs [DELETE], [DELETE] and [DELETE]. Specifically, this video evidence shows that Inmate [DELETE] did not attempt to hang himself as described by the officers in their official reports. Rather, video of the doorway to the cell shows a person's head at the door window before COs [DELETE] and [DELETE] entered the cell, which is inconsistent with [DELETE]'s attempting to hang himself at the rear of the cell.

• A statement obtained by DOI from a neighboring inmate in [DELETE]'s housing area further corroborates that [DELETE] did not attempt to hang himself as described by the officers in their official reports.

• Video surveillance [DELETE] captures the entirety of Captain [DELETE]'s criminal conduct, and specifically shows her fabricating the noose by twisting and tying a pair of inmate pants into a noose and then photographing the same.

• Interviews with other DOC personnel present [DELETE] further established that [DELETE] was twisting a pair of DOC pants as seen on the video.

• A copy of the DOC incident report associated with this event includes photographs of the noose fashioned by Captain [DELETE] which could have been used as evidence against inmate [DELETE] in DOC disciplinary proceedings for destruction of DOC property, among other possible infractions reported in the submitted false staff reports.

The above findings as to COs [DELETE], [DELETE] and [DELETE] may implicate various sections of the New York State Penal Law ("PL") including, but not limited to: PL §§ 110/120.06 (Attempted Gang Assault in the Second Degree), PL § 175.10 (Falsification of Business Records in the First Degree) and PL § 175.35 (Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree).

The above findings as to Captain [DELETE] may implicate various sections of the New York State PL including, but not limited to: PL § 215.40(1)(a) (Tampering with Physical Evidence).




Captain [DELETE] and Correction Officers [DELETE] & [DELETE]

Based on a review of various DOC records and photographs, interviews of inmates and DOC officers, and a review of OCME reports, DOI determined the following:

DOI's investigation established that, on October 30, 2012, inside the ORVC facility, Captain [DELETE], along with COs [DELETE] and [DELETE] assaulted inmate [DELETE] in violation of DOC's "Use of Force" guidelines. Specifically, DOI determined that during the course of being transferred to another cell, inmate [DELETE] was escorted rear-cuffed out of the housing area, and led by Captain [DELETE] and CO [DELETE] into the back corner of a staircase vestibule out of view of the housing area and facility cameras, where he was assaulted by Captain [DELETE], CO [DELETE] and CO [DELETE]. As a result of the incident, inmate [DELETE] provided statements to both DOI and DOC investigators that during the course of the assault he was struck numerous times about his body by multiple people. [DELETE] further described being struck with a baton as part of the assault.

Captain [DELETE], CO [DELETE], and CO [DELETE] each submitted false Use of Force reports that were consistent with one another -- claiming inmate [DELETE] was the initial aggressor and omitting any mention of the use of the use of a baton, or a description of physical force that would be consistent with the injuries the inmate sustained.



• Photographs of inmate [DELETE]'s injuries show multiple patterned and non-patterned contusions and abrasions on his body. [DELETE] consistent with being struck by a long cylindrical object such as a DOC issued baton.

The above findings as to Captain [DELETE], CO [DELETE], and CO [DELETE] may implicate various sections of the New York State PL including, but not limited to: PL § § 110/120.06 (Attempted Gang Assault in the Second Degree), PL § 120.05(2) (Assault in the Second Degree), PL § 175.10 (Falsification of Business Records in the First Degree) and PL § 175.35 (Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree).

All of the above involve possible criminal offenses were committed by uniformed members of DOC staff tasked with ensuring the care, custody and control of inmates housed within DOC's Rikers Island facilities. As such, we believe these are serious criminal cases that require immediate attention to ensure the continued safety and security of these facilities and the inmates housed therein. I look forward to hearing from you about the status of these matters.

Very Truly Yours,

Mark G. Peters


Jennifer Sculco, Inspector General

cc: [DELETE]



1. DOI previously referred aspects of several of these cases to your Office, but not the full scope of what is contained below, including [DELETE]'s falsification of documents and evidence by DOC staff.

2. See: DOC Directive 5006R-C.




6. See: DOC Use of Force Directive 5006R-C.

In its four-month investigation, The Times found that inmates had suffered fractured jaws and eye sockets, wounds requiring stitches and severe head and back injuries during altercations with correction officers. Some were beaten by multiple guards, while handcuffed, and after suicide attempts, sometimes in full view of witnesses, including other inmates and medical personnel.

Though still early in its inquiry, the Investigation Department has uncovered multiple cases of contraband smuggling and falsification of evidence by correction officers. Two officers were arrested in June after they were caught with up to eight ounces of cocaine during a sweep by department investigators.

The Investigation Department, which was created in 1873 in response to the endemic municipal corruption of the Gilded Age, monitors 45 city agencies for corruption and misconduct. The department has the authority to enact an arrest, but typically refers cases to the district attorney for prosecution.

In the past, the department has investigated Rikers Island in a piecemeal fashion, focusing on individual cases. After taking office in February, Mr. Peters said it became clear that a more systemic investigation was warranted, and he assigned more investigators to the examination.

He said he had received strong support in his efforts from Joseph Ponte, the commissioner of the Correction Department, who took office in April and has vowed to reform Rikers Island.

More arrests are expected before the department wraps up its investigation in the fall, Mr. Peters said.

Though he said it was too early to draw conclusions about the investigation, he did say that in order to reduce contraband smuggling, there should be more screening of correction officers when they enter the jails.

“Given the arrests we’ve done, there’s no doubt that correction officers are involved in smuggling,” he said. “But until we finish our investigation, we can’t speculate on the full scope of the involvement.”

Mr. Peters also said he opposed calls by lawyers with the Legal Aid Society and others for an outside federal monitor to oversee the jails, similar to those who oversee the Fire and Police Departments.

“Federal monitors and the Department of Justice get involved when localities are unwilling or unable to fix institutional problems,” he said. “We are absolutely willing and able to investigate this matter.”
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Re: New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates,

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:31 am

Mentally Ill Rikers Inmates Are Frequently Attacked by Officers, Says Secret Study

By Margaret Hartmann
Daily Intelligencer
July 14, 2014



Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

Rikers Island has been under more scrutiny since two inmates died in their cells, one due to overheating and another after not receiving his medication for a week, but now it looks like that was just the tip of the iceberg. Following a four-month investigation, the New York Times reports that "brutal attacks by correction officers on inmates — particularly those with mental-health issues — are common occurrences inside Rikers." The paper learned of dozens of horrific assaults through interviews with inmates, correction officers, and medical personnel, but the most damning piece of evidence is an internal study conducted by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The report, which the department refused to release under the state's Freedom of Information Law, found that from January to November last year, 129 inmates suffered injuries at the hands of correction officers that were so serious they had to be transferred for emergency treatment.

And there are more disturbing statistics: Seventy-seven percent of the seriously injured inmates had been diagnosed with a mental illness. Over a third of the inmates suffered broken bones, more than 40 percent needed stitches, and 73 percent received head injuries. Of the 80 injured inmates interviewed by staff, 80 percent said they were beaten after they were handcuffed. It appears that none of the officers involved in the attacks have been charged.

Jails serve as de facto mental-health facilities across the country, though they're usually poorly equipped to handle mental illness. At Rikers, the percentage of inmates suffering from a mental illness has doubled over the last eight years to nearly 40 percent. Meanwhile, the use of force by officers has increased by nearly 90 percent over the past five years.

Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who is known for reforming Maine's prison system, acknowledged that the department is "deeply troubled" when he took over in April. He said in an interview with the Times that there are plans to provide more mentoring for rookie officers, install more security cameras, and rewrite the department's outdated policies on the use of force. But despite reports of dozens of brutal beatings, and frequent attempts to cover them up, he said there are only a few officers who engage in such behavior. "We really don’t have a culture of violence," he said. "We have problems and we’re working to address those."

The Extent of Police Corruption

We found corruption to be widespread. It took various forms depending upon the activity involved, appearing at its most sophisticated among plainclothesmen assigned to enforcing gambling laws. In the five plainclothes divisions where our investigations were concentrated we found a strikingly standardized pattern of corruption. Plainclothesmen, participating in what is known in police parlance as a "pad," collected regular bi-weekly or monthly payments amounting to as much as $3,500 from each of the gambling establishments in the area under their jurisdiction, and divided the take in equal shares. The monthly share per man (called the "nut") ranged from $300 and $400 in midtown Manhattan to $1,500 in Harlem. When supervisors were involved they received a share and a half. A newly assigned plainclothesman was not entitled to his share for about two months, while he was checked out for reliability, but the earnings lost by the delay were made up to him in the form of two months' severance pay when he left the division.

Evidence before us led us to the conclusion that the same pattern existed in the remaining divisions which we did not investigate in depth. This conclusion was confirmed by events occurring before and after the period of our investigation. Prior to the Commission's existence, exposures by former plainclothesman Frank Serpico had led to indictments or departmental charges against nineteen plainclothesmen in a Bronx division for involvement in a pad where the nut was $800. After our public hearings had been completed, an investigation conducted by the Kings County District Attorney and the Department's Internal Affairs Division -- which investigation neither the Commission nor its staff had even known about -- resulted in indictments and charges against thirty-seven Brooklyn plainclothesmen who had participated in a pad with a nut of $1,200. The manner of operation of the pad involved in each of these situations was in every detail identical to that described at the Commission hearings, and in each almost every plainclothesman in the division, including supervisory lieutenants, was implicated.

Corruption in narcotics enforcement lacked the organization of the gambling pads, but individual payments -- known as "scores" -- were commonly received and could be staggering in amount. Our investigation, a concurrent probe by the State Investigation Commission and prosecutions by Federal and local authorities all revealed a pattern whereby corrupt officers customarily collected scores in substantial amounts from narcotics violators. These scores were either kept by the individual officer or shared with a partner and, perhaps, a superior officer. They ranged from minor shakedowns to payments of many thousands of dollars, the largest narcotics payoff uncovered in our investigation having been $80,000. According to information developed by the S.I.C. and in recent Federal investigations, the size of this score was by no means unique.

Corruption among detectives assigned to general investigative duties also took the form of shakedowns of individual targets of opportunity. Although these scores were not in the huge amounts found in narcotics, they not infrequently came to several thousand dollars.

Uniformed patrolmen assigned to street duties were not found to receive money on nearly so grand or organized a scale, but the large number of small payments they received present an equally serious if less dramatic problem. Uniformed patrolmen, particularly those assigned to radio patrol cars, participated in gambling pads more modest in size than those received by plainclothes units and received regular payments from construction sites, bars, grocery stores and other business establishments. These payments were usually made on a regular basis to sector car patrolmen and on a haphazard basis to others. While individual payments to uniformed men were small, mostly under $20, they were often so numerous as to add substantially to a patrolman's income. Other less regular payments to uniformed patrolmen included those made by after-hours bars, bottle clubs, tow trucks, motorists, cab drivers, parking lots, prostitutes and defendants wanting to fix their cases in court. Another practice found to be widespread was the payment of gratuities by policemen to other policemen to expedite normal police procedures or to gain favorable assignments.

Sergeants and lieutenants who were so inclined participated in the same kind of corruption as the men they supervised. In addition, some sergeants had their own pads from which patrolmen were excluded.

Although the Commission was unable to develop hard evidence establishing that officers above the rank of lieutenant received payoffs, considerable circumstantial evidence and some testimony so indicated. Most often when a superior officer is corrupt, he uses a patrolman as his "bagman" who collects for him and keeps a percentage of the take. Because the bagman may keep the money for himself, although he claims to be collecting for his superior, it is extremely difficult to determine with any accuracy when the superior actually is involved.

Of course, not all policemen are corrupt. If we are to exclude such petty infractions as free meals, an appreciable number do not engage in any corrupt activities. Yet, with extremely rare exceptions, even those who themselves engage in no corrupt activities are involved in corruption in the sense that they take no steps to prevent what they know or suspect to be going on about them.

It must be made clear that -- in a little over a year with a staff having as few as two and never more than twelve field investigators -- we did not examine every precinct in the Department. Our conclusion that corruption is widespread throughout the Department is based on the fact that information supplied to us by hundreds of sources within and without the Department was consistently borne out by specific observations made in areas we were able to investigate in detail.

The Nature and Significance of Police Corruption

Corruption, although widespread, is by no means uniform in degree. Corrupt policemen have been described as falling into two basic categories: "meat-eaters" and "grass-eaters." As the names might suggest, the meat-eaters are those policemen who, like Patrolman William Phillips who testified at our hearings, aggressively misuse their police powers for personal gain. The grass-eaters simply accept the payoffs that the happenstances of police work throw their way. Although the meat-eaters get the huge payoffs that make the headlines, they represent a small percentage of all corrupt policemen. The truth is, the vast majority of policemen on the take don't deal in huge amounts of graft.

And yet, grass-eaters are the heart of the problem. Their great numbers tend to make corruption "respectable." They also tend to encourage the code of silence that brands anyone who exposes corruption a traitor. At the time our investigation began, any policeman violating the code did so at his peril. The result was described in our interim report: "The rookie who comes into the Department is faced with the situation where it is easier for him to become corrupt than to remain honest."

More importantly, although meat-eaters can and have been individually induced to make their peace with society, the grass-eaters may be more easily reformed. We believe that, given proper leadership and support, many police who have slipped into corruption would exchange their illicit income for the satisfaction of belonging to a corruption-free Department in which they could take genuine pride.

The problem of corruption is neither new, nor confined to the police. Reports of prior investigations into police corruption, testimony taken by the Commission, and opinions of informed persons both within and without the Department make it abundantly clear that police corruption has been a problem for many years. Investigations have occurred on the average of once in twenty years since before the turn of the century, and yet conditions exposed by one investigation seem substantially unchanged when the next one makes its report. This doesn't mean that the police have a monopoly on corruption. On the contrary, in every area where police corruption exists it is paralleled by corruption in other agencies of government, in industry and labor, and in the professions.

Our own mandate was limited solely to the police. There are sound reasons for such a special concern with police corruption. The police have a unique place in our society. The policeman is expected to "uphold the law" and "keep the peace." He is charged with everything from traffic control to riot control. He is expected to protect our lives and our property. As a result, society gives him special powers and prerogatives, which include the right and obligation to bear arms, along with the authority to take away our liberty by arresting us.

Symbolically, his role is even greater. For most people, the policeman is the law. To them, the law is administered by the patrolman on the beat and the captain in the station house. Little wonder that the public becomes aroused and alarmed when the police are charged with corruption or are shown to be corrupt.

Departmental Attitudes Towards Police Corruption

Although this special concern is justified, public preoccupation with police corruption as opposed to corruption in other agencies of government inevitably seems unfair to the policeman. He believes that he is unjustly blamed for the results of corruption in other parts of the criminal justice system. This sense of unfairness intensifies the sense of isolation and hostility to which the nature of police work inevitably gives rise.

Feelings of isolation and hostility are experienced by policemen not just in New York, but everywhere. To understand these feelings one must appreciate an important characteristic of any metropolitan police department, namely an extremely intense group loyalty. When properly understood, this group loyalty can be used in the fight against corruption. If misunderstood or ignored, it can undermine anti-corruption activities.

Pressures that give rise to this group loyalty include the danger to which policemen are constantly exposed and the hostility they encounter from society at large. Everyone agrees that a policeman's life is a dangerous one, and that his safety, not to mention his life, can depend on his ability to rely on a fellow officer in a moment of crisis. It is less generally realized that the policeman works in a sea of hostility. This is true, not only in high crime areas, but throughout the City. Nobody, whether a burglar or a Sunday motorist, likes to have his activities interfered with. As a result, most citizens, at one time or another, regard the police with varying degrees of hostility.

The policeman feels, and naturally often returns, this hostility. Two principal characteristics emerge from this group loyalty: suspicion and hostility directed at any outside interference with the Department, and an intense desire to be proud of the Department. This mixture of hostility and pride has created what the Commission has found to be the most serious roadblock to a rational attack upon police corruption: a stubborn refusal at all levels of the Department to acknowledge that a serious problem exists.

The interaction of stubbornness, hostility and pride has given rise to the so-called "rotten-apple" theory. According to this theory, which bordered on official Department doctrine, any policeman found to be corrupt must promptly be denounced as a rotten apple in an otherwise clean barrel. It must never be admitted that his individual corruption may be symptomatic of underlying disease.

This doctrine was bottomed on two basic premises: First, the morale of the Department requires that there be no official recognition of corruption, even though practically all members of the Department know it is in truth extensive; second, the Department's public image and effectiveness require official denial of this truth.

The rotten-apple doctrine has in many ways been a basic obstacle to meaningful reform. To begin with, it reinforced and gave respectability to the code of silence. The official view that the Department's image and morale forbade public disclosure of the extent of corruption inhibited any officer who wished to disclose corruption and justified any who preferred to remain silent. The doctrine also made difficult, if not impossible, any meaningful attempt at managerial reform. A high command unwilling to acknowledge that the problem of corruption is extensive cannot very well argue that drastic changes are necessary to deal with that problem. Thus neither the Mayor's Office nor the Police Department took adequate steps to see that such changes were made when the need for them was indicated by the charges made by Officers Frank Serpico and David Durk in 1968. This was demonstrated in the Commission's second set of public hearings in December 1971.

Finally, the doctrine made impossible the use of one of the most effective techniques for dealing with any entrenched criminal activity, namely persuading a participant to help provide evidence against his partners in crime. If a corrupt policeman is merely an isolated rotten apple, no reason can be given for not exposing him the minute he is discovered. If, on the other hand, it is acknowledged that a corrupt officer is only one part of an apparatus of corruption, common sense dictates that every effort should be made to enlist the offender's aid in providing the evidence to destroy the apparatus.

The Commission's Actions

The Commission examined and rejected the premises upon which the rotten-apple doctrine rested. We concluded that there was no justification for fearing that public acknowledgment of the extent of corruption would damage the image and effectiveness of the Department. We are convinced that instead of damaging its image a realistic attitude toward corruption could only enhance the Department's credibility. The conditions described in the Commission's public hearings came as no surprise to the large numbers of City residents who had experienced them for years. If, then, the Department makes it a point to acknowledge corrupt conditions the public already knows to exist, it can hardly damage its image. On the contrary, it can only promote confidence in the Department's good-faith desire to deal with those conditions.

The Commission looked at the question of morale in much the same way. We did not -- and do not -- believe that the morale of the average policeman is enhanced by a commanding officer who insists on denying facts that the policeman knows to be true. We believed -- and continue to believe -- that such false denials can only undercut the policeman's confidence in his commander. If a policeman listens to his commander solemnly deny the existence of an obvious corrupt situation, the policeman can draw only one of two conclusions: Either the commander is hopelessly naive or he is content to let the corruption continue.

Once we had rejected the premises of the rotten-apple doctrine, the Commission determined to employ one of the techniques that adherence to the doctrine had made impossible, namely to persuade formerly corrupt police officers to work with us in providing evidence of continuing corruption.

The mere decision to use the technique did not automatically produce a body of officers able and eager to assist us in this manner. Indeed, knowledgeable persons assured us that the code of silence was so strong that we would never find a corrupt officer who could be persuaded to assist in exposing corruption. We ultimately did persuade four officers, including Detective Robert L. Leuci and Patrolmen William Phillips, Edward Droge and Alfonso Jannotta to undertake undercover work. Of these, all but Detective Leuci did so under the compulsion of having been caught by Commission investigators. Patrolmen Phillips and Droge testified at public hearings held in October 1971. Patrolman Jannotta was unavailable due to illness at the time of the hearings. The information disclosed by Detective Leuci was so vital that we did not, since our time was limited, feel justified in keeping it to ourselves. Leuci and the Commission staff members who had debriefed him and worked with him on his initial undercover operations were turned over to the Federal Government for the long-term investigation which was required. Leuci's work as a Federal undercover agent is now resulting in the series of important narcotics-related indictments being obtained by United States Attorney Whitney North Seymour, Jr.

Success in persuading these officers to assist in the investigation was a first step in demonstrating that the rotten-apple doctrine was invalid. Patrolman Phillips' three days of testimony about systematic corruption in various parts of the Department, corroborated by tape-recorded conversations with many police officers and others, was in itself enough to make the doctrine seem untenable. Patrolman Droge described how departmental pressures gradually converted an idealistic rookie into an increasingly bold finder of bribes and payoffs. Former Patrolman Waverly Logan, who volunteered to testify about corruption in which he had been involved, corroborated Droge's testimony and went on to tell about policemen in Harlem who received monthly as much as $3,000 each in narcotics graft. Patrolman Logan also introduced the Commission to two addicts who were willing to work with us in obtaining evidence to corroborate these assertions. The Commission's work with these addicts produced movies and recorded conversations of policemen selling narcotics. Some of the narcotics were paid for with merchandise the policemen believed to be stolen. Captain Daniel McGowan, a police officer of unquestioned integrity and experienced in anti-corruption work, testified that the picture of corruption presented by Patrolmen Phillips, Droge and Logan was an accurate one. In addition, there was testimony from, among others, a Harlem gambler, Commission agents describing their investigations, and witnesses in the business community revealing corrupt police dealings with the hotel and construction industries. Recorded conversations and movies documented instances of police corruption, including gambling and narcotics payoffs, fixing court cases and shaking down a tow-truck operator. The cumulative effect of these two weeks of testimony made it not only unrealistic but absurd for anyone thereafter to adhere to the rotten-apple doctrine, either publicly or privately.

The doctrine did not die easily. Institutional pressures within the Department seemed to force the high command to continue giving lip service to the doctrine even when speaking out against corruption. Commissioner Murphy in his early statements about corruption regularly included a pointed statement indicating that the corruption in the Department was limited to a few officers. On one occasion he went so far as to imply that there were no more than about 300 corrupt police officers in the entire Department. After Patrolman Phillips had completed two of his three days of testimony at our public hearings, Commissioner Murphy found it necessary to discount his testimony of widespread corruption, referring to him as a "rogue cop."

However, one week later, after Phillips had completed his testimony and had been followed by Patrolmen Logan and Droge and others, the Department, speaking through First Deputy Commissioner William H. T. Smith, forthrightly rejected the rotten-apple doctrine by name. Smith defined it as standing for the proposition that "police departments are essentially free of corruption except for the presence of a few corrupt officers who have managed to slip into police service and also into key assignments such as gambling investigations, despite rigorously applied screening procedures designed to keep them out." He said that traditional police strategy had been to react defensively whenever a scandal arose by "promising to crack down on graft, to go after the 'rogue cops,' to get rid of 'rotten apples.'" Smith said the Department now rejected this approach "not just on principle, but because as a way of controlling corruption it had utterly failed." He acknowledged that the result of adherence to the theory had been a breakdown in public confidence: " ... they [the public] are sick of 'bobbing for rotten apples' in the police barrel. They want an entirely new barrel that will never again become contaminated."

-- The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption, by Whitman Knapp, Chairman
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Re: New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates,

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:01 am

Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail
JULY 24, 2014 ... oyees.html



Andre Lane talks about a confrontation he had with correction officers at Rikers. This incident is one of 129 documented cases of beatings that resulted in severe injuries to inmates. Video Credit By Mona El-Naggar on Publish Date July 14, 2014. Image CreditRichard Perry/The New York Times ... oyees.html

My officer took a knuckle brace, and put it on his hand, and he just started hitting me, "Boom, boom," and that's when I thought, [inaudible]. [Singing very beautifully] But I don't want you to go, [inaudible] No. When my heart is for you, don't go, oh, girl. I don't want you to leave. I maybe thought [inaudible] love and attention, you understand, and I couldn't find it, and my mother was on drugs the whole 9 months she was carrying me, so I'm going on home visits, and then going home, and then going back to the group home, and I was never in a stable place.

I put on my [inaudible] clothes that I had, and I put on my little gloves that I had, and I grabbed hold of one of the officers, and I put him in a headlock, and I fell on my back, I fell on my back, so he could fall on top of me, so when he started kicking me and punching me, I won't get hit that much. They put me in a cuff, and they lean me on the desk, and they started punching me in my face, "boom," punching me in my face, jabbing me in my face crazy. They got me outside the B gate, when they got me outside the B gate, they brung a stretcher. I was fighting to get on the stretcher. I didn't want to get on the stretcher. When I was fighting, one of the officers just grabbed me both ways, "bing, bing." The lieutenant came and yelled stop resisting. How can I be resisting when I'm cuffed to this gurney? How can I be resisting when my teeth are all bloody, my mouth is all bloody, I got blood all down my throat, and blood from my head to my feet. I was all bloodied up. They said if I had lost a little more blood, I would die, I probably would have went into cardiac arrest. I didn't want to show them that I was soft and I didn't want to bow down to them, so that's basically why I started talking [inaudible] and fighting back and stuff like that because I just didn't want to feel like I was less of a man, you understand?

-- Andre Lane talks about a confrontation he had with correction officers at Rikers

After being arrested on a misdemeanor charge following a family dispute last year, Jose Bautista was unable to post $250 bail and ended up in a jail cell on Rikers Island.

A few days later, he tore his underwear, looped it around his neck and tried to hang himself from the cell’s highest bar. Four correction officers rushed in and cut him down. But instead of notifying medical personnel, they handcuffed Mr. Bautista, forced him to lie face down on the cell floor and began punching him with such force, according to New York City investigators, that he suffered a perforated bowel and needed emergency surgery.

Just a few weeks earlier, Andre Lane was locked in solitary confinement in a Rikers cellblock reserved for inmates with mental illnesses when he became angry at the guards for not giving him his dinner and splashed them with either water or urine. Correction officers handcuffed him to a gurney and transported him to a clinic examination room beyond the range of video cameras where, witnesses say, several guards beat him as members of the medical staff begged for them to stop. The next morning, the walls and cabinets of the examination room were still stained with Mr. Lane’s blood.

The assaults on Mr. Bautista and Mr. Lane were not isolated episodes. Brutal attacks by correction officers on inmates — particularly those with mental health issues — are common occurrences inside Rikers, the country’s second-largest jail, a four-month investigation by The New York Times found.

Reports of such abuses have seldom reached the outside world, even as alarm has grown this year over conditions at the sprawling jail complex. A dearth of whistle-blowers, coupled with the reluctance of the city’s Department of Correction to acknowledge the problem and the fact that guards are rarely punished, has kept the full extent of the violence hidden from public view.

But The Times uncovered details on scores of assaults through interviews with current and former inmates, correction officers and mental health clinicians at the jail, and by reviewing hundreds of pages of legal, investigative and jail records. Among the documents obtained by The Times was a secret internal study completed this year by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which handles medical care at Rikers, on violence by officers. The report helps lay bare the culture of brutality on the island and makes clear that it is inmates with mental illnesses who absorb the overwhelming brunt of the violence.

The study, which the health department refused to release under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, found that over an 11-month period last year, 129 inmates suffered “serious injuries” — ones beyond the capacity of doctors at the jail’s clinics to treat — in altercations with correction department staff members.

The report cataloged in exacting detail the severity of injuries suffered by inmates: fractures, wounds requiring stitches, head injuries and the like. But it also explored who the victims were. Most significantly, 77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis.

Covering Jan. 1, 2013, to Nov. 30, 2013, the report included no names and had little by way of details about specific cases. But The Times was able to obtain specific information on all 129 cases and used it to take an in-depth look at 24 of the most serious incidents, including Mr. Bautista’s and Mr. Lane’s. The Times also examined numerous other attacks on inmates by jail employees uncovered independently of the report.

Rikers Island is the second-largest jail in the United States. Of the 11,000 inmates there, about 4,000 have mental illnesses. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

What emerges is a damning portrait of guards on Rikers Island, who are poorly equipped to deal with mental illness and instead repeatedly respond with overwhelming force to even minor provocations.

The report notes that health department staff members interviewed 80 of the 129 inmates after their altercations with correction officers. In 80 percent of the cases, inmates reported being beaten after they were handcuffed.

The study also contained hints of efforts to cover up the assaults. More than half of the inmates reported facing “interference or intimidation” from correction officers while seeking treatment after an altercation.

In five of the 129 cases, the beatings followed suicide attempts.

Many of the cases were similar to Mr. Bautista’s and Mr. Lane’s, in which several guards ganged up on a single inmate. At times, a slight aimed at a correction officer set off a chain of events that ended savagely.

While it was often hard to know what precipitated the altercation or who was at fault, the severity of the inmates’ injuries makes it clear that Rikers guards regularly failed to meet basic professional standards.

Even so, none of the officers involved in the 129 cases have been prosecuted at this point, according to information from the Bronx district attorney’s office. None have been brought up on formal administrative charges in connection to the cases so far either, though that process can sometimes be lengthy, and the Correction Department does not comment on pending investigations.

The assaults took place as guards have been struggling to contain surging violence at Rikers. The number of fights between inmates has increased year by year since at least 2009, according to Correction Department data. Assaults on correction officers and civilian staff members have also risen.

The growing numbers of mentally unstable inmates, with issues like depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are a major factor in the violence. Rikers now has about as many people with mental illnesses — roughly 4,000 of the 11,000 inmates — as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined. They make up nearly 40 percent of the jail population, up from about 20 percent eight years ago.


A Year of Brutal Violence
There has been a surge in assaults by correction officers against inmates at Rikers Island. An internal study found 129 serious injuries caused by corrections staff in 2013. Inmates with mental disorders make up nearly 40 percent of the 11,000 inmates and suffered more than three-quarters of the injuries in the study.

Otis Bantum Correctional Center
According to investigators, an inmate here, Jose Bautista, was beaten severely by four corrections officers after he tried to hang himself in his cell. He needed emergency surgery to save his life.

George Motchan Detention Center
One of the largest jails on the island, with more than 1,900 inmates.

George R. Vierno Center
More inmates suffered injuries at the hands of guards here than in any other facility. One inmate locked in solitary confinement, Andre Lane, was transported to an examination room outside the range of video cameras, where witnesses say several guards beat him as medical staff begged for them to stop.

Urgent care
Two-thirds of the inmates in the study were treated here, but 45 had to be transported off the island to the emergency rooms of local hospitals.

Anna M. Kross Center
The jail houses inmates with mental disorders. One inmate had his jaw and eye socket broken after filing complaints that guards were stealing inmates’ food.

Robert N. Davoren Center
The juvenile facility houses about 600 inmates ages 16 to 18.

The jail is not equipped for them. Inmates are housed on cellblocks supervised by uniformed men and women who are often poorly trained to deal with mental illness, and rely on pepper spray, take-down holds and fists to subdue them.

At Rikers, inmates with mental health problems are especially vulnerable, often the weakest in a kind of war of all against all, preyed upon by correction officers and other inmates. The prolonged isolation, extremes of hot and cold temperatures, interminable stretches of monotony punctuated by flashes of explosive violence can throw even the most mentally sound off balance and quickly overcome those whose mental grip is already tenuous.

Surrounded and overwhelmed, some withdraw into themselves. Others lash out. Almost daily, correction officers and civilian staff members are splashed with urine and other bodily fluids. And sometimes they are attacked. This year, two interns working in mental health units were assaulted. One suffered a broken nose, eye socket and jaw.

Inmates with mental illnesses commit two-thirds of the infractions in the jail, and they commit an overwhelming majority of assaults on jail staff members.

Yet, by law, they cannot be medicated involuntarily at the jail, and hospitals often refuse to accept them unless they harm themselves or others.

Shakima Smith-White drew a sharp contrast between how her son Michael Megginson, who has bipolar disorder, was treated during the three years he was committed to state psychiatric hospitals and the year he has spent at Rikers after being jailed on a robbery charge. “The hospital gave him a shot in his backside to knock him out, and then put him in a padded room for a few hours until he was calm,” she said.

At the jail, on Oct. 8, after a violent encounter with guards, he was found by clinicians curled up on the concrete floor of a holding cell, his wrist fractured, an eye swollen shut and bruises all over his body.

The violence continues to worsen, even as Mayor Bill de Blasio and his new reform-minded correction commissioner have vowed to bring Rikers Island under control. Correction officers used force on inmates 1,927 times in the first six months of 2014, an increase of more than one-third compared with the same period last year, according to Correction Department data. Use of force by officers is up nearly 90 percent over the last five years, even as the jail population has declined.

“There’s lots of brutality,” said Daniel Selling, who, until two months ago, was the director of the jail’s mental health services. “Horrible brutality.”


Four Guards, One Inmate

Conditions inside Rikers have rarely been a priority for city officials, but several recent episodes involving mentally disturbed inmates have heightened scrutiny of the jail complex and spurred calls for change. In February, a mentally ill homeless veteran died after the temperature in his cell reached more than 100 degrees. A month later, federal authorities indicted a correction officer on charges of violating the civil rights of an inmate with schizophrenia who swallowed toxic detergent and died, despite begging for medical attention for hours.

Those cases, however, reflected indifference and neglect. What the health department study documented was different: It showed that violence committed by guards against inmates is pervasive and routine.

Among the 129 inmates the study was based on, 45 had to be transported off the island to the emergency rooms of local hospitals for treatment. The rest were referred to an emergency service on the island.

Correction Department regulations say that a blow to the face or head should be the last resort when restraining an inmate. But that is exactly where inmates were injured in 73 percent of the violent encounters with officers. Just over a third of the assaults resulted in broken bones; more than 40 percent led to cuts that required stitches.

In August, Carlos Gonzalez, who suffered from depression and schizophrenia, was holding hands with his fiancée in a visiting area when a guard told him to let go. The guard threw him against a wall and told him to apologize for continuing to hold on, according to a Legal Aid Society complaint. In Mr. Gonzalez’s version of the events, he said he was sorry, but the guard told him to say it louder. When Mr. Gonzalez, who was arrested for violating an order of protection, refused, he said two guards punched him in the face. Mr. Gonzalez’s eardrum was ruptured, and he was so bloodied the guards made him change into a clean jumpsuit before he was taken to a clinic and later to Elmhurst Hospital Center.

In Brian Mack’s case, guards were allegedly settling a score. Mr. Mack, 57, who has been convicted of grand larceny, told investigators and health officials that he was assaulted in May 2013 by a captain and another officer after the captain challenged him over complaints he made about guards stealing inmates’ food. The captain struck him in the eye with his radio and the officer punched him in his jaw, Mr. Mack told investigators from the correction board.

Medical workers later reported that he had sustained “serious head trauma,” including a broken jaw and eye socket. Correction Department officials claimed Mr. Mack’s injuries came from a fight with other inmates, but board investigators could find no record of such a fight in the department’s log books.

Tamel Dixon, left, and Brian Mack.

In many of the cases examined by The Times, the guards’ responses seemed to grossly outweigh the perceived offense. The altercation involving Mr. Bautista early last year is especially puzzling.

After the four guards cut him down from his makeshift noose, he lay prone on the floor of the cell for nearly a minute but then suddenly stood up. Later Mr. Bautista, then 37 and a married father of five who made a living as a house painter and dishwasher, told investigators he did not know why he stood, except that he was confused.

At 5-foot-5, he is significantly smaller than the guards. Whether the four standing over him were startled, scared or angry is hard to know since the surveillance camera that caught much of what happened was unable to pick up sound. But this was the moment when they began wrestling with him and dragging him around the cell.

When Jose Bautista tried to hang himself while he was incarcerated, officers at Rikers responded with force. Video Credit By Mona El-Naggar on Publish Date July 14, 2014.

Later, investigators from four city agencies — the Board of Correction, the Department of Correction, the health department and the office of the medical examiner — watched the video, and all reached the same conclusion. “It can be clearly seen that officers are punching this inmate,” wrote Kennith Armstead of the Correction Board, which monitors conditions at Rikers and investigates serious incidents.

The pain was unbearable, said Mr. Bautista, who was later told he had depression.

“I felt all the strength going out of my legs and couldn’t stand up anymore,” he said in an interview. “My stomach felt really hot.”

Jail rules called for him to be transported to the clinic by gurney, but the officers half-walked, half-dragged him there.

Feces from the perforated bowel were leaching into his abdomen. “My stomach was swelling,” Mr. Bautista said.

In a few hours, he said, he was put into a van and thought he was going to the hospital, but instead was driven around and returned to the clinic.

There is a charade at Rikers, widely known by jail employees and jokingly referred to by some as “bus therapy” — where guards will load an inmate they do not want around into a van and drive him in circles.

This may have been what happened to Mr. Bautista. The jail log had him leaving the clinic at 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 11 and being admitted to Elmhurst Hospital Center at 2:47 a.m. on Jan. 12, according to investigators.

It is a 15-minute drive.

Mr. Bautista said it was past midnight when a second van ride took him to the hospital.

When he reached the emergency room, he asked to call his wife but was told by doctors there was no time: He was in danger of dying.

In the written account that the four officers filed within an hour of the incident, none reported being injured.

They described what happened as routine, that they had used standard body holds, “guided” him to the floor, applied flex-cuffs, “assisted Bautista to his feet,” and escorted him to the clinic.

That likely would have ended it, except that two weeks later, the board investigator was paging through a stack of injury reports when he noticed No. 828, Mr. Bautista’s case. Written across the bottom were the words “small bowel perforation” and “sent out via E.M.S. for a life-threatening emergency.”


The New York Times would like to learn more about conditions at Rikers Island from the people who know it best. If you are a current or former inmate, a family member of an inmate, or a current or former employee at Rikers Island, please share your story or information with Michael Schwirtz at and Mike Winerip at Your comments and contact information will not be published, and all who write will be guaranteed anonymity if requested. A reporter or editor from The Times may follow up with you directly to learn more about your experiences.

Investigators from the Correction Department interviewed nine witnesses, repeatedly reviewed the video and concluded that Officer Kevin Barnaby had punched Mr. Bautista several times in the side.

Officer Barnaby denied this. He told investigators that it was Mr. Bautista who had started the fight by “rolling around squirming and attempting to bite” them. He said what looked like punches was him “trying to get Bautista’s hands out to be cuffed.”

In February, investigators recommended filing administrative charges against Mr. Barnaby, writing that besides using excessive force, he had filed a false report and given false testimony.

They were overruled. Two deputy commissioners in the Correction Department, Florence Finkle and Thomas Bergdall, determined that notwithstanding the serious injury, the force used was not excessive and did not violate the department’s policies, a spokesman said. They concluded, according to a department report, that Officer Barnaby “might have actually believed he was trying to grab Bautista’s arms out from under him.” The city’s Department of Investigation and the United States attorney’s office both reviewed the case and decided not to bring criminal charges.

In the end, the only person punished for the altercation was Mr. Bautista, who received an infraction for “physically resisting staff.”

He spent about a week in the hospital and then was released from Rikers. His misdemeanor charge was dropped soon after, and he has filed a lawsuit against the Correction Department. From the surgery, he has a foot-long scar down his stomach, which, he says, still causes him pain if the weather is bad or if he turns too quickly.

Jose Bautista has a foot-long scar from emergency surgery after guards punched him with such force, according to investigators, that he suffered a perforated bowel. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

A Promise of Change

Rikers is far from alone as a correctional institution struggling with an influx of inmates with mental illnesses. According to some studies, correctional facilities now hold 95 percent of all institutionalized people with mental illnesses.

Some jails have learned to cope. In San Francisco, for instance, officers are taught to use “verbal judo"— tactics to talk an inmate down in order to de-escalate a crisis — and to ignore an inmate’s taunts if that is what it takes to keep peace.

In New York, by contrast, guards’ responses sometimes look more like street justice.

At a recent City Council hearing about problems at Rikers, Joseph Ponte, who took over as the city’s correction commissioner in April, acknowledged the department he inherited was “deeply troubled.”

He came to New York with a reputation as a reformer after spending three years as the correction commissioner in Maine, where he reduced the use of solitary confinement and overhauled mental health care in the state prison system.

The correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, left. Credit Jake Naughton/The New York Times

Taming the violence at Rikers will not be so easy.

In an interview about The Times’s findings, Mr. Ponte acknowledged that Rikers was in need of change to “really bring it into the 21st century.”

He said policies governing when correction officers can use force were outdated and would be rewritten by the fall. Rookie officers, who have almost no on-the-job training after the academy, often did not know when to use force and how to de-escalate confrontations rather than use violence, he said. The new budget included funding for 12 new training captains to help mentor rookie officers going forward. The department also plans to increase the number of security cameras, which have been shown to reduce violence. They currently cover 42 percent of the jail space where officers interact, according to the Department of Correction.

Mr. Ponte said it was a minority of correction officers who engaged in brutal behavior.

“We really don’t have a culture of violence,” he said. “We have problems and we’re working to address those.”

Mr. Ponte has devoted particular attention to mental health in his first few months in New York, promising to work closely with the health department in changing Rikers.

He appears to have strong backing from the mayor, who appropriated $32 million in the new budget for mental health programs and more correction officers. At a Board of Correction meeting last Tuesday, Mr. Ponte said he planned to use some of that funding for staffing 370 new units to house the jail’s most violent inmates, including 120 who have mental illnesses.

In June, Mr. de Blasio also created a task force to study ways to improve care for people with mental illnesses cycling in and out of the criminal justice system.

Jail staff members complain they do not have the tools to properly care for inmates with mental health problems. Health privacy laws prevent uniformed officers from getting information they could use to better do their jobs, including knowing whether an inmate is taking his medication.

Mental health clinicians are unable to involuntarily medicate inmates who go off medication and often do not have access to the full range of drugs available outside the jail. Many clinicians complain that they are working in a setting that is controlled by correction officials who do not understand mental illness.

In January, the Department of Correction announced it was ending the use of solitary confinement for the inmates classified as “seriously mentally ill,” because it can exacerbate their conditions, and instead would provide them with more therapy. But the definition of “seriously mentally ill” includes only a small percentage of inmates who have received particular diagnoses, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and meet certain criteria relating to their condition. A vast majority of inmates with mental health issues, even significant ones, can still be sent to solitary and make up more than half of the inmates in those cellblocks.

Under Mr. Ponte, the Correction Department recently moved to ensure its officers received more mental health training at the Correction Academy, adding an additional eight hours to the 38.5 hours trainees previously received.

Even so, it is clear from interviews that many guards harbor a deep skepticism for the purported mental health conditions of inmates.

“About half are faking it,” said one officer, who has worked on a mental observation unit most of his 10 years at Rikers and asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

There is little chance for significant change at Rikers without the correction officers’ union on board, and Norman Seabrook, its president, has made it very clear that he is not. He has accused the health department of undermining security at the jail with its efforts to curtail the use of solitary confinement and divert more inmates to therapy.

Norman Seabrook, head of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

For 19 years, Mr. Seabrook has headed the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, becoming one of the most powerful labor leaders in the state and exerting a control over the 9,000 rank-and-file members in a way that is rare today.

In an interview, he said he tried to instruct his members to use force judiciously.

“Do I have a correction officer here or there that goes over and beyond? I’m not going to say that I don’t,” he said. “That’s just like having a police officer that fires 41 shots.”

But he said that for every violent guard, there are those who are victims of attacks by inmates. Correction officers go to the hospital with injuries every day, he said.

“What about the officer that has a broken eye socket?” Mr. Seabrook said. “What about the officer that has a concussion? What about the officer that has their finger bitten off from these same individuals that people want to talk about as so so innocent?”

Tensions over how to handle inmates with mental illnesses surfaced recently while Mr. Ponte, Mr. Seabrook and Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, the health commissioner, were touring the Central Punitive Segregation Unit at Rikers. Inmates there are locked in solitary for 23 hours a day. As health officials were explaining the screening process that is supposed to be used before an inmate with a mental illness is placed in segregation, Mr. Seabrook erupted, according to two people who were there.

He asked Dr. Bassett how she would feel if his officers suddenly disappeared from the cellblock, leaving her alone with 100 vicious inmates — and then he answered his own question.

You’d be soiling your pants, he told her. (His words were more graphic.)

“This jail belongs to us,” Mr. Seabrook yelled. “It does not belong to the department of mental health.”

Anger on Both Sides of Bars

Whether correction officials should be able to send troublesome inmates with mental illnesses to solitary confinement and how long they should be confined there is one of the thorniest issues facing correction officials, not just in New York but across the country.

Studies have made clear that prolonged isolation can have a devastating effect on those with psychiatric issues, but even mental health workers at Rikers have fretted over the recent scaling back of the use of solitary at the jail, worrying dangerous inmates will be able to operate with impunity.

What is clear from the health department study is that assaults on inmates in the solitary confinement units are especially common, accounting for nearly a third of the serious injuries. Inmates there are so desperate to be let out of the cell that some will pound on their doors, scream, even cut themselves in hopes of getting a meeting with a social worker and an hour out of their cells.

A lot of the guards are not happy about being there, either. Several interviewed said they worked at Rikers because it pays a good union wage with pension benefits. When asked about the job itself, repeatedly the answer was, “I hate it.”

That can make for a lot of angry people in very tight quarters.

In March 2013, Luis Rosario got into a verbal back-and-forth with two officers and a captain in a solitary confinement unit for inmates with mental illnesses. After dragging him from his cell, one officer held him by his handcuffs and the other beat him, while their captain looked on, according to a complaint he filed with Correction Department investigators. The bones in Mr. Rosario’s face were so badly broken he needed his jaw wired shut.

Correction officers are supposed to show restraint, but in a place that has been growing more violent by the year, a code of behavior based on an eye for an eye appears to have taken hold.

This was the case on the night of Dec. 17, 2012, when an inmate flooded Cellblock 13B, a solitary confinement unit in the George R. Vierno Center at Rikers. Dinner was delayed, and inmates were told there might not be any dinner; vicious threats were exchanged between inmates and guards.

Correction officers removed two inmates, Tamel Dixon, 20, and Mr. Lane, 24, from their cells. Mr. Dixon, who had been arrested on charges of stealing cellphones, was dragged out first.

Officer Lameen Barnes prepared the official incident report that night on what happened to Mr. Dixon, writing that he had tried to throw an “unknown liquid substance” at the officers, and in response, they had searched his cell for contraband. When they entered, the report said, Mr. Dixon refused to come out, insulted them and would not follow their orders. He was restrained and handcuffed to a gurney.

“Once on his feet, inmate Dixon was eventually escorted to the main clinic for medical examination without any further incident of force used,” Mr. Barnes wrote.

That is nothing like what actually happened, according to accounts from three people who were there. Two requested anonymity because they said they feared retaliation from officers as well as their employer, Corizon, which has a contract with the city to provide health care at the jail. For the third witness, The Times was provided a copy of the clinician’s email to superiors about the incident, on the condition that the sender’s name be withheld.

According to their accounts, a group of correction officers wheeled Mr. Dixon into an examination area without a security camera. “Don’t leave me,” he kept yelling to the medics and social workers. “They’re going to kill me.”

About a half-dozen guards were crowded around the gurney, and one kept punching Mr. Dixon in the head.

Next, the correction officers brought in Mr. Lane, who had also splashed guards with a liquid. Mr. Lane was known as a disruptive inmate. He had been in and out of Rikers, and much of his most recent stint had been spent in solitary confinement. Born to a mother who was a crack addict, he spent most of his time growing up in foster homes and had a lengthy history of mental health problems, with diagnoses for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder.

“They punched me in the face and they kept punching me and punching me and punching me,” Mr. Lane recalled in an interview at Elmira Correctional Facility, where he recently completed a two-year sentence for a credit card theft conviction.

Two captains, Budnarine Behari and Rod Marcel, oversaw the guards in the beatings, the clinic workers who were there said.

“This one much worse and longer,” the email from the clinician said. “Staff members were visibly upset and some said they were sick to their stomachs.”

When staff members pleaded with them to stop, Captain Behari asked how they would feel if they had been splashed with urine, witnesses said.

Captain Behari was involved in another beating eight months earlier in which an inmate’s jaw and nose were broken. Administrative charges were brought against him but the verdict is still pending, more than two years later. A spokesman for the Bronx district attorney’s office said it was investigating the captains in the clinic case. But three witnesses told The Times they have not talked to anyone from the prosecutor’s office in a year.

Patrick Ferraiuolo, president of the captains’ union at Rikers, said both captains were placed on modified duty seven months after the clinic incident, collecting full pay, but assigned to jobs that did not involve contact with inmates. Neither of the captains had been interviewed by prosecutors, he said, because they had acted appropriately.

In the clinic that night, Mr. Lane said, Captain Marcel kept yelling, “Stop resisting.”

“How can I be resisting when I’m cuffed to the gurney?” Mr. Lane said.

“One officer took a knuckle brace and put it on his hands, just started hitting me, boom, boom,” he said. “My head started leaking blood, and that’s when I started getting dizzy and dizzy and dizzy,” he said, adding that he eventually passed out.

When he came to, he said, “I’m bloodied up, my teeth is all bloody, my mouth is all bloody. I got blood all down my throat.”

The next morning, when the day shift arrived, there was still blood splattered around examination room No. 6.

Annie Correal contributed reporting, and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.
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Re: New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates,

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:30 am

New York City to Pay $2.75 Million to Settle Suit in Death of Rikers Island Inmate
JULY 21, 2014



Ronald Spear died in 2012.

New York City has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the December 2012 death of a prisoner at Rikers Island after he suffered what the city medical examiner’s office concluded was “blunt force trauma” to the head.

The inmate, Ronald Spear, 52, had kidney problems and walked with a cane, according to the lawsuit. The medical examiner’s office ruled that the manner of death was homicide.

The settlement is one of the largest paid by the city in recent years to resolve a lawsuit alleging violence against an inmate. Two years ago, the city agreed to pay $2 million to settle a case stemming from the 2008 fatal assault on Christopher Robinson, an 18-year-old inmate who was said to have been beaten by other prisoners who were enlisted by correction officers to help control his unit.

The settlement also comes at a time of heightened focus on violence in city jails, including a recent New York Times report that documented 129 cases of inmates who were seriously injured over the course of 11 months in 2013 after violent encounters with correction officers. A copy of the settlement agreement was obtained by The Times.

Mr. Spear was being held at the North Infirmary Command, where he was “struggling to get medical care for a serious and chronic kidney disease,” the lawsuit said. “Part of what makes the underlying facts so disturbing was Mr. Spear’s obvious vulnerability at the time of the assault and killing,” it added.

Jonathan S. Chasan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, which helped represent the family, said the case was “yet another example of the persistent problem of excessive force in the New York City jails, a problem that has not been adequately addressed or remediated.”

Citing sworn statements by other inmate witnesses, the lawsuit alleged that Mr. Spear had been kicked in the face and chest by one correction officer while being pinned down by two other officers.

Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer whose firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, also represented the family, said, “No amount of money adequately compensates for the loss of a life.” But, he added, the settlement “seems to reflect a recognition on the part of the city that something terribly wrong happened here, whether or not that’s explicitly admitted.”

Eldin L. Villafañe, deputy commissioner of public information for the city’s Department of Correction, said that one officer had been fired, and others were facing disciplinary charges. Citing legal restrictions, he said he could not offer further details about the disciplinary investigations.

The city does not admit fault in the settlement document, which is expected to be filed on Monday before Judge P. Kevin Castel of Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Muriel Goode-Trufant, a senior city lawyer, said in a statement: “This was a tragic incident. It is hoped that this resolution brings some small measure of closure for the family.”

Mr. Spear was arrested in September 2012 and while in jail, he required regular dialysis treatment for kidney disease, the lawsuit said, adding that he often complained to correction officers about his medications and dialysis.

In early December 2012, he filed his own lawsuit, without the help of a lawyer, claiming that while in jail he had been denied medication, which had caused him “severe physical pain.”

In the lawsuit, he also said that he had contacted the Legal Aid Society, and as a result, “I have correction officers retaliating against me.” He died about two weeks later.

“It appears that correction officers had grown impatient with Mr. Spear’s persistent requests for medical treatment, and that they punished him by beating him to death,” his lawyers wrote last year in a letter to the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, asking that it open an investigation into Mr. Spear’s death.

The lawyers complained in their letter that the Bronx district attorney’s office, which had been investigating the case, was moving too slowly.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said, “The Bronx D.A.'s office did a full investigation of the case, and determined it couldn’t prove criminal responsibility on the officers’ behalf beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Mr. Abady, the family’s lawyer, said on Friday that he had learned that Mr. Bharara’s office was now conducting a civil rights investigation into Mr. Spear’s death. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Two inmates who provided sworn statements to the family’s lawyers said Mr. Spear had raised frequent complaints about his care. The witnesses — Jesse James and Shawn Fraser — said that on the morning of Dec. 19, 2012, Mr. Spear asked to see a captain after getting into a disagreement with an officer about his treatment.

The officer grabbed Mr. Spear’s arm and hit him three or four times, knocking him down, the inmates said. They added that as he lay on the floor, two other officers held him, while the first officer kicked him repeatedly in the face and chest.

A third inmate who also provided a statement, Julius Newton, said that he looked into the hallway and saw an officer “kicking Ronald, who was lying on the ground” and not moving.

Mr. Spear’s sister, Nellie Kelly, said in a phone interview that the settlement was unlikely to change “the way that the officers behave, the way the city allows them to behave.”

It would have “no major impact on anything,” she added.
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Re: New York City Reviewing Rikers Assaults on 129 Inmates,

Postby admin » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:59 am

In 9 Cases of Police Chokeholds, Punishment Was Rare, Review Board Says
JULY 21, 2014



Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke to the news media last week about the death of Eric Garner.

From 2009 to 2013, an oversight board substantiated nine complaints by people who said New York City police officers restrained them with a chokehold, a banned tactic that may have played a role in the death of a Staten Island man last week.

In each of the nine cases, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates police misconduct, recommended that the Police Department pursue the strongest form of punishment for the officers: an administrative trial, which could lead to termination.

But the police commissioner has the final say in such cases, and in all but one of the cases decided, the officers were not disciplined, or were given the lightest possible sanction: a review of the rules.

The department’s response in the nine cases, documented in monthly reports by the board, raised uncomfortable questions for the Police Department, which prohibits chokeholds because of the risk of serious injury or death, but in practice appears to treat the maneuver as little more than a lapse.

Mr. Garner was confronted by the police on Thursday after he was suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, the authorities said.

How the department treats officers in such situations has come under new scrutiny after the death of the Staten Island man, Eric Garner, who was held by an officer in an apparent chokehold on Thursday. The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was stripped of his badge and gun as an investigation into the death goes on.

Video of the arrest, apparently for selling untaxed cigarettes, appeared to show Officer Pantaleo wrapping his arm around the neck of Mr. Garner, who had been arguing with officers and objecting to being arrested. The two men fell to the ground, and other officers joined in restraining Mr. Garner as he said he was not able to breathe.

The two emergency medical technicians and the two paramedics who responded to Mr. Garner have been suspended without pay, the Richmond University Medical Center said Monday.

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said the video appeared to show a chokehold.

Josmar Trujillo, an activist of New Yorkers Against Bratton, spoke to the news media during a protest outside City Hall on Monday. Several activists gathered to protest after the death of Mr. Garner.

“Each case must be considered as to the specifics of the underlying actions,” said Stephen Davis, the department’s top spokesman. “The circumstances vary as to a number of different variables, ‘dangerousness’ being just one of them, the nature of the ‘chokehold’ being another.”

Mr. Bratton has said the practice, more common in the 1980s before many departments banned its use, had not been a problem in the first six months of his tenure. He told reporters Friday that officers were officially reminded last year that chokeholds are not allowed.

Despite the ban, complaints of officers’ using chokeholds have steadily come before the review board. From 2009 to 2013, the board received 1,022 such complaints. In nine of those cases, investigators were able to find evidence to back up the complaint and bring it to the attention of the department.

Details of the nine substantiated cases were not immediately available, except for the precincts where they occurred and the basics of the dispositions. Most took place in the Bronx and Brooklyn; none were on Staten Island.

The review board recommended that each officer be brought before an administrative court, on the fourth floor of Police Headquarters, where a department judge would rule in the case. If found guilty, the officer would face suspension or possible termination.

But in two cases of chokeholds, in 2009 and in 2010, the department under Raymond W. Kelly, then commissioner, declined altogether to pursue an administrative trial, effectively deciding not to discipline the officer.

In three cases, from 2009 to 2011, officers were issued “instructions” by Mr. Kelly, a designation that amounts to retraining on the rules. One officer retired before a judgment could be ruled, and two cases from 2013 are still pending a decision in an administrative trial.

One pending case began with plainclothes officers approaching a man for riding his bike on a Queens sidewalk in January 2012, and ended with the officer and the man wrestling on the ground. The man said the officer held him in a chokehold for more than a minute; the officer has denied doing so.

Only once in the last five years, August 2009, did Mr. Kelly issue a modest punishment against an officer for a chokehold, a command discipline that carried a loss of vacation days.

So far, Mr. Bratton has not had to decide whether and how to discipline an officer for a chokehold. There is no set time, after a trial, for the police commissioner to render his decision. In the previous administration, such decisions could take up to a year. The last time a person died from an apparent chokehold was 1994; Mr. Bratton was commissioner then as well. A federal jury eventually convicted the officer.

At least one complaint reported to the department in 2014 has been substantiated so far: a case in February in the 77th Precinct in Brooklyn. In that case, the review board recommended charges. A trial has yet to be scheduled.
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