N.Y. Today: Jail Guards Lied About Use of Force

What you need to know for Monday.

When Guards in New York City's Jails Lie About Use of Force

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By Mihir Zaveri

Reporter, Metro

It's Monday.

Weather: Sunny and blustery, with a high in the low 60s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Thursday (Holy Thursday, Orthodox).

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Richard Perry/The New York Times

Six years ago, New York City agreed to hold correction officers at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex more accountable for misconduct, as part of a legal settlement with federal prosecutors after years of complaints about abuses by guards.

But an analysis of a newly released database of disciplinary records, while limited, shows that violence by guards continues to be a problem in the city's jail system. The records suggest that attempts by guards to cover up excessive use of force or other infractions have been pervasive.

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From January 2019 to August 2020, 56 percent of the more than 270 correction officers who were disciplined — including a dozen supervisors — lied, misled investigators or filed incomplete or inaccurate reports, the records show. At least 17 officers made false statements in interviews with officials investigating the allegations.

The context

Until now, the disciplinary records of correction officers and their supervisors had been largely kept secret.

But New York legislators, in response to pressure from protests against police violence and racism after the killing of George Floyd, repealed a section of a state statute that shielded such records from the public.

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The city then released a database detailing disciplinary actions against correction officers in March.

The findings

The disciplinary records reflect a range of transgressions: One officer struck a jailed person in the face for no legitimate reason. Another put a detainee in a banned chokehold several times. A third failed to stop subordinates from using unnecessary force.

One officer was disciplined eight times in less than two years for using excessive force on people held in the jails. In four of those cases, he lied on official reports about what had happened, and at least once he made false statements to investigators, records show.

Nine of the more than 270 guards resigned or retired under pressure, the data showed. Twenty-four officers were suspended, and 17 additional officers were placed on probation, which lasted from one to four years. Most of the rest lost vacation days.

From The Times

The Mini Crossword: Here is today's puzzle.

What we're reading

The New York Police Department will deploy officers to commercial districts in Manhattan to encourage workers to return to offices and to help tourism rebound, officials said. [Wall Street Journal]

At least 15 people were shot in several incidents across the city, the police said. [CBS New York]

State and local officials were investigating after four synagogues in the Bronx were vandalized this weekend. [PIX 11]

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And finally: A pioneer of underground radio dies

My colleague Joseph Berger writes:

For more than 50 years, Bob Fass hosted an anarchic and influential radio show on New York's countercultural FM station, WBAI. The show mixed political conversation, avant-garde music, serendipitous encounters and outright agitation.

On Saturday, Mr. Fass died in Monroe, N.C., where he lived in recent years. He was 87. His wife, Lynnie Tofte, said that he had been hospitalized with Covid-19 earlier in the month, but that he died of congestive heart failure.

Mr. Fass called his long-running show "Radio Unnameable" because its freewheeling format did not fit into conventional categories like Top 40 or all talk.

In a gravelly, avuncular baritone that was both soothingly intimate and insistently urgent, and that sometimes reflected the mellowing impact of the pot he smoked on the air, he might start out with a critique of segregation or the Vietnam War, then introduce a Greenwich Village friend named Abbie Hoffman to muse about a demonstration by the radical and theatrical Yippies that had showered traders in the New York Stock Exchange with dollar bills.

Or he might bring on an ambitious Minnesotan named Bob Dylan, pretending to be an entrepreneur who manufactured clothing for folk singers. In various appearances, Mr. Dylan did comic monologues featuring characters with names like Elvis Bickel, Rumple Billy Burp and Frog Rugster, and asked cabbies to bring food to the station. In one appearance he tried out an unfinished composition, "Blowin' in the Wind."

"I'd put anyone on, because the idea was if you didn't like what I was doing, three minutes later I'd be doing something else," Mr. Fass once told an interviewer.

Mr. Fass was not the first freestyle disc jockey in the country, but he became the most prominent. He helped forge the identity of WBAI, a noncommercial, listener-sponsored station already known for his leftist stance, and paved the way for other popular WBAI hosts like Larry Josephson and Steve Post.

It's Monday — turn it up.

Metropolitan Diary: Knees and hands

Dear Diary:

I was on a morning train from New Haven to Grand Central. Three people got on and sat in a four-seat section, two seats facing on either side, at the head of the car.

At a subsequent stop, a man got on the train. In one deft move, he sat down with the three people, freed the poster that was mounted on the wall nearby and positioned it on the eight collected knees. A deck of cards appeared, and the game began.

When the train arrived at Grand Central, the poster was returned to its rightful place, the cards were put away and the foursome went their separate ways.

— Stephen Condict

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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