Slashed Rikers correction officer speaks out at City Hall rally for use-of-force reforms

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The correction officer who was attacked and slashed by two inmates at Rikers Island is speaking out Monday, appearing at a rally as law enforcement officers and public officials push for changes to New York City's use-of-force guidelines.

Ray Calderon was ambushed and put in a chokehold last week before being slashed on the head, face and wrist.

"I could have passed out," he said. "This could have been my funeral."

The passionate rally was held on the steps of City Hall by officers who stand behind the 31-year-old Calderon.

"I was choked from behind as hard as the guy could choke me, and I was slashed in the face numerous times," he said.

The Correction Officers Benevolent Association has filed for an injunction that would halt new DOC guidelines set to take effect soon that prevent officers from hitting inmates. It also ends solitary confinement for inmates ages younger than 21.

The two inmates who attacked Calderon were ages 18 and 19, and at least three of the four people charged in the incident were repeat offenders in attacks on officers.

"They need to be placed in punitive segregation where they can be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week," union president Norman Seabrook said. "Escorted by a supervisor and an officer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and handcuffed every time that they leave their cell area."

Officers also complain that with all of the reform going on at Rikers, they're not a part of the discussion.

"We have a new administration that discovered Rikers Island two years ago," state Senator Diane Savino said. "They brought in a commissioner who instituted changes there. We call it the 'hug a thug' program."

The union is calling for the city to delay the new guidelines in the wake of the violent attack, as well as for administrative changes.

"This administration is tone deaf when it comes to running real jails in the city of New York," Seabrook said. "(DOC Commissioner) Joe Ponte has got to go."

Mayor de Blasio's press secretary released a statement saying, "From developing a sophisticated inmate classification tool to adding camera coverage to expanding officer training, Ponte's top-to-bottom reforms were developed in close consultation with the department's officers, wardens, captains, and leadership. DOC's new Use of Force policy was also drafted with significant contribution from uniformed members of staff from across the Department and other bodies, including the unions and the Board of Correction."
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