WGXC-90.7 FM

Report details divide between prison union and internal affairs unit

Apr 13, 2016 12:04 am
The Marshall Project and The New York Times have a large report on the current battle between the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association union. First the story details current problems with disciplining corrections officers who misbehave: "superintendents have practically no power to transfer problem officers; disciplinary rules give an arbitrator, not the commissioner, final say on who gets fired; rules governing internal affairs investigations require officers to receive 24 hours’ notice before being questioned, and while on the job, a guard cannot be penalized for refusing to answer questions from an outside law enforcement agency. Moreover, details of disciplinary measures taken against guards are kept secret from the public." The story outlines a history of problems with the internal affairs unit. Early last year, the unit’s second in command, James A. Ferro, was arrested for sexually harassing an investigator, later pleading guilty and taking an annual pension of $66,384. The unit’s current caseload of suspected wrongdoing by officers includes over 1,000 cases, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently increased the number of investigators from 116 to 150, hiring experienced investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, instead of political appointees. In fact, 10 percent of the previous investigative team were removed in the house-cleaning, and a nurse was hired to assess injuries in brutality cases. But change in the prison culture is slow. The Cuomo administration has responded to a drop in crime by closing 13 prisons, but the story says most were fairly small, and there have been no layoffs of correction officers. The current contract with the union expired last month, and it could be years before a new agreement is reached, as the 20,000-member union is not interested in many of the proposed changes. Michael B. Powers, the union president, said that while he was willing to work with the corrections department, he would fight to protect his officers, “with any and all resources necessary.” Read the full story at The Marshall Project.