CRIPA Investigation of the New York City Department of Corre

Re: CRIPA Investigation of the New York City Department of C

Postby admin » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:25 am

APPENDIX: REPRESENTATIVE USE OF FORCE INCIDENTS

In connection with our investigation, we identified a sample of approximately 200 use of force incidents involving adolescent male inmates and requested all records related to these incidents. Among other things, we requested use of force reports, investigative reports and files, video surveillance, inmate medical records, and records relating to any disciplinary action taken against involved inmates or staff. In addition, our consultant interviewed the adolescents involved in some of these incidents. As noted in the body of our letter, in many cases, we were not provided with video surveillance that existed at one time, because the Department claimed that it could no longer locate the footage.

We have compiled the below summaries based on our review of the materials provided and our consultant’s interviews.48 With the exception of the final incident referenced in the Appendix, we have not included incidents where there was an ongoing DOC investigation at the time this letter was prepared. These incident summaries are intended to illustrate several of the serious, systemic deficiencies we have identified in the body of our letter, which we have concluded violate the constitutional rights of adolescent inmates and expose them to an ongoing substantial risk of harm during their confinement at Rikers. These incidents are just some of the incidents that we have found to be problematic; they are in no way intended to serve as a complete list of all instances in which DOC staff have used unnecessary or excessive force against adolescents.
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Re: CRIPA Investigation of the New York City Department of C

Postby admin » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:26 am

2012 INCIDENTS

*Inmate A


In April 2012, DOC staff repeatedly punched Inmate A in the face near the RNDC school security gate, allegedly with the approval of a Captain who had previously gotten into a verbal altercation with the inmate. There is no video of the incident because there are no cameras in the school area.

During an interview with investigators the day following the incident, Inmate A provided the following detailed account: After leaving the school area to go to lunch, he set off the magnometer and a Captain told him to empty his pockets. He and the Captain had a heated argument and the Captain tossed Inmate A’s chips into the garbage. Inmate A called the Captain a “bitch,” and the Captain responded by saying, “all right, wait until you come back up.” Another correction officer, who was also present, warned him to “watch when you come back.” When Inmate A returned from lunch, the correction officer instructed him to wait at the security gate while the other inmates entered the classrooms. The officer asked the Captain what he and two other officers should do with Inmate A, and the Captain directed him to mace Inmate A, which he did. The officer then punched Inmate A on the right side of his face. After this initial blow, this same officer and the two other officers punched Inmate A approximately ten times in the face and ribs. When Inmate A fell to the ground, the officers began kicking him, and one of the kicks to the inmate’s face cut his lip.

The ID inexplicably did not complete its investigation until June 2013, 14 months after the incident took place. The officer who maced and initially punched inmate A told the ID investigators that when he instructed Inmate A to place his hands on the wall after Inmate A did not clear the magnometer, Inmate A punched him in the face and body. The officer stated that he had neglected to mention in his initial written report that Inmate A had punched him in the body as well as the facial area because he was “dazed” after the incident. According to the officer, he used the OC spray but it did not achieve the desired effect, so he punched Inmate A in the body and face. The officer claimed he and Inmate A were the only ones in the area at the time of the incident. When interviewed by ID investigators in January 2013, the Captain denied being in the area when the use of force occurred.

According to a logbook, Inmate A was not seen in the RNDC clinic until more than three hours after the incident. Inmate A sustained a laceration to his upper lip and was transferred to Urgicare where he received three sutures. Inmate A also suffered contusions to his right orbital and rib areas. The officer sustained injuries to his left thumb and knee, but there is no indication in the record of any facial injuries, which is inconsistent with the officer’s assertion that Inmate A punched him in the face.

Notwithstanding the officer’s admission that he had repeatedly punched Inmate A in the body and face and the fact that the officer’s injuries were inconsistent with his account, the ID concluded that the use of force was within the use of force guidelines. According to DOC records, the officer was involved in a total of 13 use of force incidents at RNDC from 2010 through early 2013.

Inmate B

In April 2012, Inmate B, who was in the adolescent punitive segregation unit of MHAUII due to mental health needs, was repeatedly punched in the head and upper body by an officer while two other officers stood idly by. The incident was captured on video, which we reviewed.

Several inmates in the MHAUII multi-purpose room got into a disagreement and began throwing a storage bin at each other. One officer entered the room and approached Inmate B, whose handcuffs apparently had been removed. According to the infraction report later prepared by the officer, when he tried to re-apply the mechanical restraints, Inmate B stood up and pushed him, and the officer defended himself by “applying a combination of blows and strikes to the subject inmate’s upper torso and took Inmate B down to the ground.” However, the video of the incident shows that the officer actually delivered multiple roundhouse punches to Inmate B’s head, while at least two officers in the room stood by and made no attempt to intervene. It is unclear from the video whether Inmate B actually pushed the officer as the officer contends. Inmate B sustained multiple abrasions to the right and left side of his face, his right wrist, and his left elbow. The officer suffered trauma to his right thumb, presumably from punching Inmate B. Notwithstanding the video surveillance, the facility concluded that the force was minimal and necessary. The other officers in the multi-purpose room who witnessed the use of force inexplicably did not provide written reports as required by policy.

Inmate C

In May 2012, in an apparent act of retribution, Inmate C was beaten near the RNDC school, an area that does not have security cameras. Inmate C was punched several times in the face by an officer, and was allegedly kicked by a second officer after falling to the ground.

During his interview with investigators, Inmate C stated that an officer got angry at him one morning when he did not follow the officer’s order to stop doing pushups and report to his bed. The officer threatened Inmate C and told him that he would “slap the shit out of him if he kept playing,” according to a statement provided by another inmate. According to Inmate C, in the afternoon, while inmates were lining up to enter the RNDC classroom, the officer ordered Inmate C to stay behind. Inmate C reported that the officer then put on a pair of gloves, assumed a fighting stance, and punched Inmate C in the face approximately 15 times, causing him to fall to the floor. Inmate C reported that he felt a second officer kick him while he was bleeding on the ground.

In his use of force report, the first officer asserted that Inmate C instigated the fight by punching him in the face “without provocation,” and that the officer punched Inmate C in his upper body only in self-defense. The officer claimed that he repeatedly used OC spray to subdue Inmate C and gave him several verbal commands to stop his aggression. However, several inmate witnesses confirmed many aspects of Inmate C’s account, including that the officer instigated the incident, that Inmate C was hit repeatedly, and that other officers joined in the beating. The officer later submitted a written addendum to his initial report acknowledging that his punches were to Inmate C’s facial area, not just to his upper body.

Inmate C sustained a nasal fracture and bruises to his face and head, which is consistent with being punched in the face. The first officer also sustained injuries and was transported to Booth Memorial Hospital for treatment. The ID, which did not complete its investigation until 14 months after the incident, concluded that the use of force was appropriate and that the facial blows delivered by the officer were used as self-defense. The officer was not disciplined, even though he indisputably filed a false use of force report that did not mention the punches to Inmate C’s face.

*Inmate D

In May 2012, Inmate D sustained serious injuries, including a skull fracture, as a result of a use of force incident that occurred in an RNDC search area, where there is no video surveillance. Inmate D provided the following account: When he entered the RNDC visit search area after a visit with his girlfriend, DOC staff ordered him to remove his clothing, squat, and cough. Inmate D complained about the strip search but eventually complied. After Inmate D made a smart remark to one officer, multiple officers proceeded to repeatedly punch and kick him in the chest, face, and head while he tried to protect himself. He was then ordered to remove his clothes again, which he did (other than his socks). Additional officers then joined in the beating and repeatedly punched and kicked Inmate D while he was on the ground. A large metal fan was thrown on top of him multiple times. Inmate D reported that at least five correction officers participated in the assault, and that the beating continued until one officer stated that he thought Inmate D was dead. He was then handcuffed and kicked in the face a few more times.

Inmate D bled heavily, was taken to an intake pen, and did not receive medical treatment until more than an hour after the incident. He was eventually taken to Elmhurst Hospital.

In statements to investigators, according to the officer to whom Inmate D initially made a smart remark, Inmate D instigated the altercation by disobeying his order to comply with the search process, throwing his underwear at the officer, and punching him in the face. In his written report, the officer reported that he “defended [himself] punching [Inmate D] numerous times in his face and upper body area.” The officer claimed he did not observe any other staff member punch or kick Inmate D. The other officers involved denied using any force themselves and claimed they did not see the first officer use any force either.

Inmate D sustained a skull fracture, bruises to his back and shoulders, and multiple lacerations to his forehead and inner lip requiring stitches. The first officer sustained mild tenderness to his left anterior shoulder and left anterior knee, as well as mild swelling to the left side of his face.

The ID concluded that Inmate D’s allegations that he was beaten by numerous officers were unsubstantiated. Based on our review, the staff reports in this case raise credibility issues that should have been addressed during the investigation. Most importantly, Inmate D’s severe injuries are inconsistent with the accounts provided by the officers. In addition, the Captain who arrived on the scene claimed he did not recall seeing any blood, which is inconceivable given Inmate D’s injures. Furthermore, the same initial officer asserted that a patterned contusion on Inmate D’s upper back might have been caused by his watch when he pressed his forearm against Inmate D’s back (as opposed to being a “boot print”), but medical personnel disagreed. No effort was made to compare the officers’ boots to the bruise pattern to determine whether an officer had in fact stomped on Inmate D.

The description of the incident Inmate D provided to our consultant in January 2013 is substantially consistent with the accounts he provided in May 2012 to the ID investigators, DOC medical staff, and the Legal Aid Society. Inmate D received a sentence of 75 days in punitive segregation for not following orders and assaulting an officer. Inmate D filed a lawsuit based on this incident, which settled before trial.

Inmate E

In May 2012, Inmate E was ordered out of his classroom and beaten by officers in the EMTC school area after an officer perceived that Inmate E was challenging his authority by allegedly disregarding his order to pull up his ill-fitting and overly large institutional pants. Inmate E suffered multiple injuries to his head and face, including a broken tooth. One year and eight months after opening its investigation, the ID concluded that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that inappropriate and excessive force was used, no charges were recommended against the officers involved, and the case was closed. There is no video surveillance in the ETMC school area.

In an interview with investigators, Inmate E explained that the day before the incident he had been issued institutional pants that were too big for him. On the day of the incident, an officer looked into a classroom, saw that Inmate E’s pants were falling down, and ordered him to pull them up. Inmate E did so, but the officer ordered him out of the classroom and told him that he had to comply when given an order. When Inmate E explained that his pants were too big, the officer told him not to question his authority, and pushed his head so that the back of his head hit the wall. Inmate E became angry and “flinched” at the officer, but did not actually hit him. The officer then started punching Inmate E. A second officer then came out from the A post, and started punching him as well. Together the two officers punched him in the ribs, right eye, left side of his forehead, and right side of his jaw. Inmate E estimated that four or five punches landed on his jaw. A third officer also joined in and began beating Inmate E as well. Once the Captain arrived, she ordered Inmate E to put his hands on the wall, which he did. The second officer then punched Inmate E again. Inmate E denied hitting any of the officers, and said he was just trying to block punches. DOHMH records also indicate that Inmate E told medical staff that he was “jumped” and “punched all over his body” for “no apparent reason.”

The officers’ statements regarding the incident were not consistent with Inmate E’s and not entirely consistent with each other. In his use of force report and interview, the second officer said he saw Inmate E swing at the first officer, and that he came to his aid and together he and the first officer were able to restrain Inmate E against the wall. The second officer said he did not see the first officer punching Inmate E and did not report taking part in or witnessing any force other than “restraining” Inmate E and “gaining control” over him. The Captain reported that she saw Inmate E “strike [the first officer] in the face with a closed fist,” when she arrived in the area, although the second officer reported that they had already gained control of him by the time the Captain arrived. The first officer, who did not submit a use of force report until two days after the incident, reported that Inmate E first punched him three or four times on his face and neck, and that the punches were so powerful, they caused the officer’s legs to “buckle.” He then punched Inmate E approximately three times; one punch inadvertently hit Inmate E in the face, and the others landed on his arms and torso. The officer did not report any further strikes to Inmate E’s head or torso, and only described putting Inmate E in a rear arm lock against the wall.

The first and second officers claimed torn rotator cuffs to the shoulders, although both refused to sign HIPAA forms for the release of medical records. The first officer also claimed pain to his left wrist, left shoulder, neck, and lower back. Such injuries are more consistent with throwing punches than being punched “three or four times” in the face and neck.

Although the ID’s case closing report states that “[Inmate E]’s version [of events] was not supported by other testimony,” in fact six inmates provided statements substantially consistent with Inmate E’s, including detailed statements regarding the fact that the first officer pushed Inmate E’s head against the wall, that three officers were beating him, that Inmate E was trying to block the punches, and that the Captain watched the fight but did not intervene.

Inmate E sustained “multiple injuries to face, and head and mouth,” including bruises to his right eye and lip, and injuries to the left side of his head, nose, and mouth. He was sent to Urgicare for x-rays, where it was determined that he had a broken tooth. In addition, photographs documented blood stains on his shirt. Although the ID concluded that these injuries “can be accounted for by the officers’ account of the force used,” it is not credible that one inadvertent punch to the face and control holds could result in multiple bruises and injuries to the opposite sides of his head, a broken tooth, and leave blood stains on his shirt.

The ID took one year and eight months to complete this investigation, and recommended that the case be closed without charges. The length of the investigation is particularly striking, given that a preliminary investigative case report was written up by the ID just five days after the incident, including summaries of all the statements inmate witnesses made to ID investigators. At that time, the ID did not yet have the first officer’s use of force report, and the preliminary report noted that the case should remain open in order for the first officer and other staff to “explain how [Inmate E] sustained a chipped tooth and multiple injuries to face, head and mouth.” It then took nearly nine months before the ID conducted an interview of the Captain, and then still another eight months before the ID conducted interviews of the first and second officers. In total, the first and second officers were interviewed one year and five months after the incident took place.

*Inmate F

In June 2012, Inmate F, a mentally impaired inmate, was repeatedly punched in the face by an officer who has been involved in well over 20 other RNDC use of force incidents. Although the officer admitted that he delivered multiple blows to the inmate’s face, the Department concluded that the force used was appropriate based on the officer’s contention that he was acting in self-defense and responding to an unprovoked blow from the inmate. There is no video of the incident because it occurred in the school area.

During an interview with our consultant, Inmate F reported that the officer challenged him to a one-on-one fight after they had gotten into a verbal confrontation in the RNDC school area. Inmate F reported that the officer punched him in the face, injuring his nose. Inmate F told our consultant that the officer kept on punching him, and he eventually punched the officer back and then ran into the corridor where he knew there was video surveillance and assumed a “surrender” position. According to DOC records, the officer was involved in a total of 24 use of force incidents at RNDC from 2007 through early 2013, including eight incidents in 2012 alone. He also has been subject to repeated disciplinary actions.

In his written report, the officer claimed that Inmate F initiated the altercation by punching him in the facial area after the officer found him in an unauthorized area (the teacher’s lounge) and attempted to escort him to the school entrance. The officer openly acknowledged in his written report that that he “responded by throwing several punches striking [Inmate F] in the facial area.” The officer also admitted that he did not attempt to use OC spray to subdue Inmate F before hitting him. Another officer who allegedly witnessed the event submitted a written report stating that Inmate F “spontaneously” punched the officer in his facial area and then the officer “retaliated by striking said inmate with a closed fist to his facial area.” The officer witness did not mention that the officer involved in the incident actually delivered several punches, as that officer himself conceded. Inmate F denied assaulting the officer during his interview with investigators.

The Captain who investigated the matter and the Tour Commander concluded that the use of force was within the Department’s guidelines, and the RNDC Warden and Deputy Warden for Security concurred with this finding. There is nothing in the record to suggest that the facility interviewed any potential inmate witnesses as part of its investigation, took into account the officer’s use of force history, or explored why the only officer who admitted to witnessing the incident failed to mention that the officer involved in the incident delivered several punches as opposed to just one. In addition, although this incident involved multiple head blows, it was not referred to the ID for a more thorough investigation.

Inmate F sustained nasal and upper lip contusions and the officer suffered a contusion to his jaw. Inmate F’s medical records note that he scratched his left arm “after the incident because he did not want to go to [the] box.” Nonetheless, Inmate F was transferred to the RHU and placed on suicide watch. A few days after the incident, Inmate F’s attorney advised DOC that Inmate F suffered from a lifelong condition of claustrophobia and that being housed in isolation could lead to a mental breakdown.

DOC pursued criminal charges against Inmate F based on the officer’s allegation that Inmate F had assaulted him, but these charges were dismissed in December 2012.

*Inmate G

In June 2012, in an apparent act of retribution, two officers forcibly took inmate Inmate G to the ground and beat him. Inmate G was punched multiple times and kicked in the head, resulting in serious injuries including a lost tooth.

During his interview with investigators, Inmate G reported that he walked into the pantry area in RNDC 3 Central North to get some water, and an officer told him he could not have any water because he was “a snitch.” According to Inmate G, the officer was under the false impression that Inmate G had previously reported that the officer had been involved in another use of force incident. The officer grabbed Inmate G around the waist and threw him out of the pantry, according to notes of the investigator who reviewed the video of the incident. Inmate G reported that a second officer then grabbed him by the waist, threw him toward a supply closet, and said: “Oh what you doing? You must want to get fucked up today? You know who I am?”

Several minutes later, Inmate G had another confrontation in the vestibule area with both officers. Inmate G told investigators that the two officers tried to restrain his arms, and eventually forcibly took him to the ground. Inmate G stated that the second officer put his knee into Inmate G’s back, making it hard for him to breathe, and then banged his face into the floor. According to the ID report, the video revealed that Inmate G and the two officers struggled for several minutes. After Inmate G was placed in flex cuffs and a Captain arrived, the second officer stomped on Inmate G’s head, causing his chin to hit the floor and his upper front tooth to fall out. Inmate G reported that a staff member told the first officer: “Yo, if anyone comes to you tell them this is what happened. The inmate was being aggressive, he wasn’t cooperating, and he was refusing to put his hands behind his back.” Inmate G was then taken to the clinic where he alleged he was further assaulted and pressured to prepare a false written statement about the incident, which he refused to do.

During interviews with investigators, the two officers claimed they used force only in response to Inmate G’s aggression and repeated refusal to obey orders. The first officer claimed that he had ordered Inmate G “to stop resisting” but he did not. However, the written statements provided by both officers contained inaccuracies and were found to be inconsistent with the video surveillance. For instance, in his written statement, the first officer falsely stated that he had guided Inmate G out of the pantry, while the video surveillance showed that he used physical force to remove him. In addition, the second officer initially stated in his written report that he had “lost [his] balance causing [his] foot to momentarily and inadvertently make contact with [Inmate G’s] head.” However, the second officer later admitted that he intentionally kicked Inmate G in the head “in the heat of the moment.” Neither officer used OC spray to subdue Inmate G before resorting to physical force.

Inmate G suffered a two-centimeter laceration to his chin that required sutures, lost a tooth, and sustained cracking and chipping to other teeth. Although the ID investigation report repeatedly refers to video surveillance of the incident, DOC claimed the video could not be located and did not provide it to us. The ID found that the first officer violated the use of force policy by utilizing physical force to remove Inmate G from the pantry when Inmate G did not pose a direct threat to him and recommended that charges be brought, although it does not appear from the records provided that the first officer was subject to formal discipline. The second officer was suspended after the incident, but the length of his suspension is unclear.

Inmate H

In September 2012, after shouting obscenities at an officer who had hit him in the ribcage with handcuffs while he was sleeping in class, Inmate H was pulled out of a classroom in the RNDC school area by a second officer and severely beaten in the corridor. Two teachers in the area reported hearing Inmate H screaming and crying for his mother while being beaten. Inmate H, who was not seen by medical clinic staff for more than four hours after the incident took place, suffered pain and contusions to the left cheek, lower lip, and left upper ribcage. There is no video surveillance in the RNDC school area.

In an interview with ID investigators on the day of the incident, Inmate H explained that he was sleeping with his head on his desk in the early afternoon, when he felt something hit him on the left side of his ribs. Another inmate told him that an officer had hit him in the ribs. The teacher in the classroom confirmed to ID that an officer had wrapped metal handcuffs around her hand and used them to hit him in the ribs in order to wake him up. Inmate H then walked to the classroom door, and yelled obscenities at the officer. According to Inmate H and as reported in the ID investigation report, a tall muscular officer then grabbed him, saying “yo get the fuck over here,” and punched him in the left eye causing him to fall on the floor. Inmate H told the ID that other officers then joined in, kicking him while he was on the floor on the face, head and back. When he thought the beating was over, the first officer who had hit him in the ribs said, as reported by ID, “Oh just because I’m a female that don’t mean nothing cause I can still fuck you up. Next time watch your fucking mouth.” She then hit him and kicked him, after which another officer came over and asked if he could hit Inmate H as well. Again according to Inmate H, the other officers in the area said, “sure, why not,” after which the officer proceeded to kick him in the mouth. Another officer asked if anyone had pepper sprayed him yet, and then proceeded to spray him directly in the eye, one inch from his eye. According to Inmate H, he did not fight back while the officers were beating him.

The use of force reports submitted by three officers told a different story, but also contradicted each other in part. The first officer initially reported Inmate H came off the wall during a pat frisk, grabbing her collar and ripping it. She then claimed to defend herself from this assault by using closed hand strikes to Inmate H’s “facial and upper body areas.” In an addendum submitted later, she noted that the pat frisk she reported earlier took place after Inmate H followed her into the corridor because he was angry that she had “tapped” him on the shoulder to wake him up while he was sleeping in class. A second officer reported that he arrived on the scene while Inmate H was assaulting the first officer, at which point he sprayed Inmate H with OC. But a third officer reported that the second officer appeared at the door of the classroom and ordered Inmate H into the corridor after Inmate H shouted obscenities at the first officer. The Captain assigned to the facility investigation acknowledged that the stories of the three officers were somewhat contradictory, but concluded that the use of force was appropriate and the case should be closed without further investigation.

Several other statements, however, tend to confirm Inmate H’s version of events. A different inmate (the “inmate witness”) stated to the ID that the same initial officer who woke up Inmate H by hitting him with handcuffs had also woken him up in the classroom by hitting him with handcuffs, but that the inmate witness didn’t say anything because, as reported by the ID, “if you start to argue, they would say that you hit them first and you will catch a new charge.” Two teachers confirmed that the first officer hit the inmate witness with handcuffs in their classroom earlier in the day. The inmate witness said that he saw the female officer hit Inmate H with handcuffs as well, but that when Inmate H started cursing, the officers “took him into the hallway and knocked him out.” The inmate witness said that he and several other inmates watched through the window of the classroom as three or four officers began to punch Inmate H. In a follow-up interview with the ID several months later, the inmate witness said he didn’t remember anything and didn’t want to cooperate.

Three teachers also reported seeing Inmate H pulled by officers from the classroom into the corridor. One teacher reported that after seeing Inmate H pulled from the class she heard him being beaten, but “tried not to look in the direction of where the CO and inmate were because she didn’t want to see the inmate beat.” Once it appeared to be over, she looked out in the corridor and saw him lying on the floor, looking dazed. According to handwritten notes in the ID file, she tried to keep her students away from the window. She told her students that Inmate H was OK, but then heard the officer shouting at him again, loud thuds, and then the inmate’s cries for his mother. She described how she started to shake because she was so upset. Another teacher gave a similar description, and said he heard “thumping” and “screaming,” and that he “knew” that the inmate was being assaulted. That teacher also stated that “when an incident occurs, [Board of Education] staff knows they should turn their heads so they don’t witness anything.” He also stated that he heard the inmate “crying and screaming for his mother,” and that the other inmates in his class were trying to see what was happening through the window “because they were upset.” After Inmate H was removed from the corridor, the teacher “saw blood and saliva on the floor.”

While the first officer was treated at the on-site clinic for “shoulder pain” within minutes, Inmate H was not seen at the clinic until after 6pm that evening. His injuries were described as “left upper rib cage pain (contusion),” “left cheek contusion,” and “lower lip contusion,” and he was treated with an ice pack and Tylenol for pain.

The ID investigation, which was not completed until January 2014—one year and four months after the incident occurred—recommended that charges be brought against the first officer for seven separate violations of DOC policies, including for using unnecessary force (including using force as retaliation), using blows to the head, striking an inmate with institutional equipment, failing to report a use of force, and providing false and misleading MEO-16 testimony, among other violations. In addition, the ID investigation recommended charges against the second and third officers in connection with submitting false or inaccurate use of force reports and knowingly providing false and misleading statements during their MEO-16 interviews. The first and second officers were later charged, and those charges are still pending, according to documents provided by DOC.
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Re: CRIPA Investigation of the New York City Department of C

Postby admin » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:27 am

2013 INCIDENTS

*Inmate I


In January 2013, Inmate I was hit several times in the RNDC school area where there are no security cameras. An officer admitted that he punched Inmate I multiple times in the face and upper body area, but was not subject to any formal disciplinary action.

During his interview with Department investigators, Inmate I stated that the officer was upset because some of Inmate I’s friends were playing with their food in the mess hall. Once the inmates were back in the classroom, the officer ordered Inmate I and another inmate to stand up and face the wall. Inmate I claimed that at some point he laughed and the officer responded by punching Inmate I with a closed fist about ten times to the head and face. Inmate I stated that he was able to block some of the punches, but then an unknown officer grabbed Inmate I, pulled him to the floor, and then took him into the bathroom. The description Inmate I provided to our consultant is substantially similar to the account he provided to the Department investigators, except he told our consultant that another officer was also involved in punching him. His account to the Legal Aid Society was substantially similar to the description of the incident he provided to our consultant.

According to an inmate witness, after Inmate I refused to comply with the officer’s direction to put his hands on his head, the officer punched Inmate I one time on the side of his mouth causing Inmate I to fall to the floor. The inmate further stated that the officer then punched Inmate I two times in the chest area and kicked him four times to the rib area. The inmate claimed that the officer continued to hit Inmate I while another officer held Inmate I’s arms behind his back.

The officer stated that he punched Inmate I in the face and upper body area only after Inmate I hit him in the face. According to the officer, after bringing Inmate I down to the floor, he hit Inmate I again in response to Inmate I continuing to punch the officer. The officer claimed that he gave Inmate I several verbal orders to cease his aggression before Inmate I finally complied. The officer later amended his written report to add that he could not use chemical agents to subdue Inmate I because of the close proximity between himself and Inmate I.

Although other correction officers were in the vicinity at the time of the incident, none admitted to witnessing any use of force against Inmate I.

Inmate I sustained contusions on his lip and scalp consistent with being hit in the face. The officer suffered a contusion on his right hand, but no injuries to his face, which is inconsistent with the officer’s claim that Inmate I hit him in the face.

The ID concurred with the facility investigation’s determination that the use of force “was appropriate and necessary” for the officer to defend himself. The ID did not conduct an independent investigation, even though its report acknowledges that “[i]t is undisputable that [the officer] punched Inmate [I] in the facial area multiple times.” The facility recommended that the officer attend use of force re-training and subjected him to “a corrective interview” for violating the rule to avoid striking inmates in the head and facial areas when possible, but no formal disciplinary action was taken against the officer. Inmate I was charged in criminal court (charges that were ultimately dismissed) and received 90 days of punitive segregation as a result of this incident.

*Inmate J

In January 2013, Inmate J, a mentally ill inmate housed in MHAUII at the time, extended his forearm through the small cuffing port of his cell to get staff’s attention because he wanted a shower and to use the telephone. A Captain, accompanied by another officer, approached the inmate’s cell and, within seconds, forcibly closed the rear slide door of the cuff port on Inmate J’s left arm and walked away. The incident was captured on video.

After the incident, Inmate J told clinic staff that the Captain approached his cell and “slammed the slot forcefully” on his arm without any warning, resulting in “shocking pain . . . like I got hit with a hammer or something.” In his written statement, the Captain stated that he responded after being told that Inmate J “was holding the cuff” and gave Inmate J “several direct orders to remove his hand” before closing the slot. The Captain claimed that as he began to close the slot, Inmate J “simultaneously removed his hand swiftly… causing him to brush his arm against the closing slot.” The officer who accompanied the Captain reported that the Captain asked Inmate J “numerous times” to remove his hand before closing the port. In contrast to the Captain, the officer claimed that the injury occurred because Inmate J “spontaneously stuck his arm back through the cuffing port at the same time” as the port was closed.

The video surveillance contradicts the written statements from both the Captain and the officer. The Captain slammed the slide door of the cuff port on Inmate J’s arm within approximately ten seconds of arriving at Inmate J’s cell, making it highly unlikely that he had repeatedly ordered Inmate J to remove his hand before inflicting the injury as the Captain and the officer claim. The video also shows the Captain closing the door while Inmate J’s arm was still extended, further contradicting the Captain’s account. When interviewed by our consultant, Inmate J stated that the Captain threw out the written statement he provided after the incident.

The Captain who investigated the matter and the Tour Commander concluded that the force was inappropriate but not excessive, and the GRVC Warden concurred. This finding demonstrates a fundamental and concerning misunderstanding of the definition of excessive force. Since it was not necessary to use force under these circumstances, any force used was excessive. Moreover, neither the Tour Commander nor the investigating Captain noted that both staff members had submitted false reports, or the inconsistencies between their reports.

The Tour Commander recommended command discipline for the Captain involved in the incident for violation of the Use of Force Directive, and the Warden subsequently recommended a 4-day penalty. This was at least the third time that the Captain had been subject to disciplinary action in connection with a use of force incident.

The ID reviewed the facility’s investigation and found that it was “satisfactory” and no independent investigation was necessary.

Inmate J sustained trauma to his upper left arm, swelling, and a mild decrease in motion. The Tour Commander recommended that Inmate J receive “the maximum punitive segregation time allowed.”

Inmate K

In January 2013, an officer hit Inmate K in the school area where there are no security cameras. Inmate K told medical staff that he was “beaten” by the officer. Despite the fact that Inmate K had multiple visible injuries on his face and neck, the officer denied striking Inmate K. Based on the extent of the injuries suffered by Inmate K, the Captain assigned to investigate the incident found that the officer had falsified his report and that the use of force was excessive.

The officer told investigators he approached Inmate K and asked him to hand over playing cards, and when Inmate K refused to do so, the officer instructed Inmate K to go against the wall. According to the officer, Inmate K attempted to grab the officer’s shirt and the officer used a “swiping motion” to release Inmate K’s grip on his shirt and to gain distance. Inmate K then kneeled down and placed his hands on his head. The officer initially indicated in his report that he had used an “upper body control hold” to subdue Inmate K, but then amended his report to say that he had not used such a hold. None of the inmates or correction officers in the area at the time of the incident admitted to witnessing any use of force.

Inmate K sustained multiple bruises to his forehead, neck and back, as well as pain in his wrist. The officer had swelling and bruising on his right thumb.

The Captain assigned to investigate the incident concluded that the use of force was “excessive and not proportionate to the threat presented.” The Captain further found that the injuries suffered by Inmate K were not consistent with staff reports and that the officer had “falsified his use of force report in an attempt to downplay” the incident. Despite the Captain’s recommendation that the ID investigate the matter, there is no record that such an investigation took place. There is also no record of the officer being formally disciplined or subjected to any corrective action for either the use of excessive force or the submission of a false report.

Inmate K received 60 days of punitive segregation as a result of the incident even though there was evidence that the charges against Inmate K were based, at least in part, on a false report by the officer.

Inmate L

In January 2013, after reportedly being disruptive while waiting to enter the RNDC dining hall, Inmate L (who was on suicide watch at the time) was taken down by a Captain and punched repeatedly on his head and upper torso while he lay face down on the ground covering his head with his hands. Inmate L sustained multiple bruises and abrasions to his shoulders, arms, back, and neck.

Officers reported that Inmate L became disruptive while inmates lined up to enter the dining hall and did not comply with orders to cease his behavior. According to the Tour Commander’s report, when Inmate L refused to comply with the Captain’s order to place his hands on the wall, the Captain “guided [the] subject to the wall then took him to the ground.” The Captain proceeded to punch Inmate L “twice in the head and upper torso,” while the inmate was face down on the ground with his hands over his head, as confirmed by video surveillance. The Tour Commander concluded that the Captain’s use of force was “excessive and avoidable” since Inmate L presented no threat while on the ground. Although the Tour Commander recommended command discipline, the Department did not provide any records showing that the Captain was formally disciplined for his use of excessive force. Inmate L, however, was infracted for disorderly conduct.

Other evidence suggests that the level of force utilized was more severe than the facility found. Inmate L told investigators that the Captain “punched [him] everywhere.” In addition, according to medical records, Inmate L sustained bruises to his left and right shoulders, left and right lower arms, chest area, neck, back, and a finger on his right hand, as well as an abrasion to his right elbow. It is unlikely that all of these injuries would result from just two punches. The Captain sustained mild swelling of his right wrist, possibly due to the punches he threw.

This is also another instance when staff submitted clearly false reports. In his initial written statement after the incident, the Captain falsely claimed that Inmate L “continued to resist by flailing his arm and moving his body about in [an] attempt to avoid being cuffed.” This was contradicted by the video surveillance reviewed. In a supplemental report prepared almost two weeks after the incident, the Captain acknowledged that the inmate “placed his hands by his head” while on the ground and explained that he had not mentioned that in his initial report “[d]ue to the inmates [sic] odd behavior and the adrenaline flowing.” Moreover, only one of the many staff members who submitted written reports acknowledged that the Captain punched Inmate L, and that officer stated that the blows were necessary due to Inmate L’s “apparent assault” and “constant violent resistance.” Notwithstanding these false reports, the clearly excessive force applied, and Inmate L’s extensive injuries, this matter was not referred to the ID for a more extensive investigation.

Inmates M, N, O, P

In August 2013, four RNDC inmates were seriously injured during a brutal use of force incident involving multiple officers in a trailer that contains classrooms. The incident was referred to the ID for investigation, but we did not receive the ID file because the investigation was still pending at the time this letter was prepared. The four inmates each provided substantially consistent accounts of the incident to the Legal Aid Society and a senior DOHMH official. The inmates all sustained serious injuries, including fractures. There is no video of this incident because there are no cameras in the RNDC school area.

The following is a general summary of the accounts the four inmates provided: The inmates and one officer were working in the trailer and got into a verbal confrontation. The officer grabbed Inmate M by his neck, slammed his face into a concrete wall, and then began to repeatedly punch him. The officer reported that he had been jumped and called for backup. Soon thereafter, several other officers, including probe team members, arrived and brutally assaulted the four inmates, punching and kicking them and striking them with radios, batons, and broomsticks. This continued for several minutes after the inmates had been subdued and handcuffed. The probe team then took the inmates to holding pens in the clinic intake area where they were handcuffed and beaten again by several DOC Gang Intelligence Unit members, who repeatedly punched and kicked them while they were handcuffed and slammed them against cell walls. Two of the inmates reported that they thought they had lost consciousness or blacked out for some period of time.

According to written staff reports, the inmates instigated the confrontation by attacking the officer who was working in the trailer. Staff claimed that Inmate M pulled that officer off a ladder and started to kick and punch him, and then the other inmates joined in the assault, beating the officer with broken mop sticks and a metal rod. According to staff, when other officers arrived to provide assistance, the inmates attacked them as well and fights ensued, with officers acting in self-defense. Several officers stated that they punched the inmates in the upper torso and facial area to protect themselves. According to the officers, the probe team eventually arrived and took the inmates away in restraints. We did not receive any statements from the involved probe team officers or the Gang Intelligence Unit officers.

Several officers utilized similar phrasing and language in their written use of force reports, suggesting that the officers may have colluded with each other to ensure their reports were consistent. For instance, one officer wrote that an inmate was “able to break this writer’s hold and subsequently turned his aggression toward this writer.” Another officer noted that an inmate “broke from the control hold and then directed his aggression to this writer.” A third officer wrote that an inmate “was able to break this writer’s control hold turning his aggression towards this writer.”

The inmates sustained a wide array of serious injuries, including a broken nose, a perforated eardrum, head trauma, chest contusions, and other head and facial injuries. Although clinic medical staff quickly determined that the inmates all needed hospital care, it took an unreasonably long time to secure escorts to transfer the inmates from the jail. In an email shortly after the incident, a senior DOHMH official stated that “this type of delay could have proved fatal” and requested an investigation of why it took so long to take the inmates to the hospital.
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Re: CRIPA Investigation of the New York City Department of C

Postby admin » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:27 am

Notes:

1 When we use the term “adolescents” or “adolescent inmates” in this letter, we are referring to male inmates between the ages of 16 and 18 housed at Rikers.

2 We did not undertake a review of the adequacy of medical or mental health services provided to adolescent inmates at Rikers. Our discussions with DOHMH staff and review of DOHMH records were purely in support of our investigation into staff use of force, inmate-on-inmate violence, and the use of punitive segregation. However, our investigation nonetheless raises serious concerns about the quality of mental health services at Rikers; this critical issue, which warrants considerable attention and potentially raises concerns both under CRIPA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), may be addressed in a future investigation by this Office.

3 For various reasons, including because DOC was unable to locate some videos, and because DOC did not provide us with open DOC Investigation Division and staff disciplinary files, we did not receive all relevant records for these sample incidents.

4 After City attorneys expressed their desire to sit in on these interviews, we reached an agreement with the City whereby our consultant interviewed inmates one-on-one, outside both our presence and the presence of City attorneys, to encourage full and candid discussion between the inmates and our consultant. We participated, however, in the interview of one adolescent inmate—Inmate D—who was involved in a use of force that is highlighted in the Appendix to this report.

5 The Department is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit brought by current and former inmates at Rikers alleging system-wide, unconstitutional use of force by staff against inmates. See Nunez v. City of New York, 11 Civ. 5845 (LTS) (THK).

6 See Department of Correction website, http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/html/about/about_doc.shtml.

7 Additional facilities are located in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and a floating jail barge in the Bronx. See http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/html/about/ ... view.shtml.

8 North Carolina is the other state.

9 http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/p ... ESCENT.pdf. These figures include adolescent females, which represent approximately 10% of all adolescent admissions. The fiscal year runs from July through June of the following year.

10 These use of force figures exclude “use of force allegations,” which refer to instances when sources other than DOC personnel report that force was used on an inmate. There were 56 use of force allegations at RNDC or EMTC in FY 2013 and 45 in FY 2012.

11 From April 2012 through April 2013, adolescent fights resulted in 430 visible inmate injuries, according to DOHMH data.

12 The internal report was not issued until 16 months after then-Commissioner Schriro directed the audit. RNDC staff’s failure to accurately and consistently document inmate fights also was noted during a prior security audit in early 2011, but little was done to address the problem.

13 RNDC inmates suffered 22 jaw fractures during the first 5 ½ months of 2012 alone.

14 Our investigation did not focus on incidents involving alleged sexual assault. However, the limited information we obtained raises a concern that DOC may be under-reporting sexual assault allegations. In calendar years 2011 and 2012, DOC reported a total of only seven incidents of alleged sexual assault where the alleged victim was an adolescent. (Five of these incidents were determined to be unfounded or unsubstantiated and the other two investigations were pending at the time DOC provided the data.) This number seems extremely small given the size of the adolescent inmate population, the frequency of inmate-on-inmate violence, and the high rate of negative interactions between staff and inmates. Our consultant expressed concern as to whether allegations of sexual assault are being consistently reported and investigated in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 15601 et seq., and the relevant DOJ implementing regulations. We encourage the Department to examine these issues.

15 The Department’s Use of Force Directive directs that force may be used “only as a last alternative after all other reasonable efforts to resolve a situation have failed.” The Directive further provides that “the amount of force used at any time should always be proportional to the threat posed by the inmate at that time,” and “staff must start with the minimum amount of force needed and escalate the amount of force used only if the situation requires escalation.”

16 24-hour reports include summaries of unusual incidents that occurred during a given day, including use of force incidents.

17 The 64 incidents include 25 “use of force allegations.” There were 12 additional incidents that do not specifically reference a blow to the head or face but state that the officer punched the inmate and the inmate sustained an injury to his head or facial area.

18 DOC’s Use of Force Directive prohibits using force “[t]o punish, discipline, assault or retaliate against an inmate.”

19 The account of this incident is based on our consultant’s interviews of the two inmates, and DOI’s report summarizing its investigation and findings.

20 In late 2013, DOHMH’s Bureau of Correctional Health Services (“CHS”) analyzed serious injuries involving staff uses of force for the entire inmate population. According to CHS’ report summarizing its review, 64 of the 80 inmates CHS interviewed reported having been struck by DOC staff after being restrained.

21 DOC does not require staff to document counseling efforts so it is difficult to assess compliance with this policy.

22 According to the report prepared by DOHMH’s Bureau of Correctional Health Services (discussed supra at n.20), 45 inmates (including adult inmates) reported in interviews that DOC staff interfered with their effort to seek medical treatment or otherwise retaliated against them after a use of force incident by, among other things, threatening inmates with violence or infractions unless they declined medical care or stated that the injures were due to something other than staff use of force.

23 The inmate’s allegation that he was pressured not to report this incident also raises concerns under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 15601 et seq., and the relevant DOJ implementing regulations.

24 Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”) spray, commonly known as pepper spray, is a chemical agent that irritates the eyes and respiratory system of a target.

25 In July 2014, criminal charges were brought by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office against a Captain and two correction officers for beating an adult inmate unconscious. The DOC staff members were charged both with felony assault and with felony charges in connection with preparing and submitting false “use of force” reports. In June 2013, criminal charges were brought against ten DOC staff members, including the former Assistant Chief of Security, two Captains, and seven correction officers, in connection with a severe assault on an adult inmate that resulted in multiple facial fractures. These DOC staff members also were charged with not only felony assault, but with felony charges related to their attempts to cover-up the attack by submitting false use of force reports and false use of force witness reports, in which DOC staff claimed the inmate attacked an officer first. While the inmates involved in these particular assaults were not adolescents, the allegedly false information in the use of force reports in these criminal incidents is similar to the patterns suggesting false reporting that we found in our investigation.

26 According to the Department’s Use of Force Directive, a Class A use of force is one which requires “medical treatment beyond the prescription of over-the-counter analgesics or the administration of minor first aid,” including lacerations, fractures, sutures, chipped or cracked teeth, or multiple abrasions and/or contusions.

27 In early 2014, DOC announced that the ID was going to add 26 staff positions.

28 According to the Department’s Use of Force Directive, a Class B use of force is one “which does not require hospitalization or medical treatment beyond prescription of over-the-counter analgesics or the administration of minor first aid.” The “forcible use of mechanical restraints in a confrontational situation that results in no or minor injury” is also a Class B use of force.

29 According to the Department’s Use of Force Directive, a Class C use of force is one that results in “no injury” to the staff member or inmate involved, and includes incidents where “use of OC-spray results in no injury, beyond irritation that can be addressed through decontamination.”

30 One officer was identified as having been “counseled” on October 18, 2012, then again on November 29, 2012, and yet a third time on December 12, 2012, with no escalating response from the Department.

31 During calendar year 2012 alone, one officer was involved in 16 reported uses of force.

32 The incentive pay offered to correction officers willing to work in adolescent housing areas is equal to a 3% increase for the first year, and can reach up to 12% over a 4-year period. As of January 14, 2014, only 38 staff members had received “specialty pay” since it was introduced at RNDC.

33 In early 2014, after our on-site tours of the facilities and staff interviews, the Department once again appointed a new RNDC Warden.

34 In August 2013, 11 inmates and one correction officer reportedly sustained injuries during a large fight involving adult inmates in GRVC. This incident was captured on video that was obtained by ABC News and posted on its website. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/2 ... 99160.html). Although there were numerous staff members at the scene, none intervened while inmates fought and threw chairs and other objects at each other. According to ABC, the incident continued for more than one hour.

35 The Integrity Control Officer is charged with overseeing the extent to which staff comply with Department policies and procedures.

36 The use of force training materials include an example that offers troublesome guidance to officers. In the example, an inmate is seated in an unauthorized area and refuses to comply with an order to return to his housing area. The inmate spits at the officer and states: “It will take more than you to move me.” The materials incorrectly indicate that these circumstances justify the use of chemical agents against the inmate. However, in such a situation, best practices require the officer to first seek to control the situation verbally by applying appropriate conflict resolution skills, according to our consultant.

37 Graham Rayman, Rikers Fight Club, The Village Voice, Feb. 4, 2009.

38 Press Release, Bronx District Attorney=s Office, Death of an 18-Year Old Inmate on Rikers Island Last October Leads to Numerous Charges, Jan. 22, 2009, http://bronxda.nyc.gov/information/2009/case3.htm.

39 Elizabeth A. Harris, Corrections Officers Plead Guilty in Assault Case, N.Y. Times, Oct. 21, 2011.

40 Title II of the ADA provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

41 Shortly after our second site visit in April 2013, DOC made the long overdue decision to stop placing infracted mentally ill adolescents in MHAUII. MHAUII was an inappropriate setting for any inmate suffering from mental illness, particularly adolescents. The conditions were deplorable, the physical facilities were in disrepair, and adolescents were not separated by sight and sound from adult offenders as required by correctional standards. It was evident that the adolescents were at risk of psychologically decompensating due to the corrosive environment. Several of the most egregious use of force incidents occurred at MHAUII. At the end of 2013, DOC finally closed the entire unit.

42 Inmates may be permitted to attend visits, the law library, or religious services in addition to the one out-of-cell hour permitted for recreation. In addition, as discussed below, certain infracted inmates with mental illnesses are placed in RNDC’s restrictive housing unit where they may earn additional out-of-cell time as they reach various goals.

43 During our investigation, we did not focus on the nature or quality of the educational services delivered to adolescents, including adolescents placed in segregation units. However, we are concerned that the educational services offered to youth in punitive segregation units may not comply with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. (“IDEA”), and may look more closely at this issue in the future.

44 In late 2013, DOC opened the Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation (“CAPS”) unit as an alternative to punitive segregation for inmates deemed to be seriously mentally ill. When placed at CAPS, the inmate’s infraction is set aside and he is assigned to a secure setting for treatment for a period of time determined by clinical staff. Unfortunately, the unit has only 60 beds for adult and adolescent male inmates combined, far fewer than is needed to accommodate the high number of seriously mentally ill inmates who commit infractions. Very few adolescents have been placed in CAPS. Gilligan Report, at 8.

45 Our investigation has not focused on the quality or adequacy of the inmate disciplinary system. However, based on the volume of infractions, the pattern and practice of false use of force reporting, and inmate reports of staff pressuring them not to report incidents, we believe the Department should take steps to ensure the integrity of the disciplinary process.

46 DOC has indicated that it plans to implement additional reforms, including the use of intermediate sanctions in lieu of punitive segregation (e.g., in-school detention, probation).

47 Ten of the inmates housed in the RHU had sentences exceeding 100 days.

48 An asterisk indicates that our consultant interviewed the inmate involved in the incident during our on-site tours.
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