Planned attack on guards at Rikers Island calls safety initiatives into question

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Planned attack on Rikers guards calls safety initiatives into question
EMBED <>More Videos

Tim Fleischer has more from Lower Manhattan.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are new security concerns at Rikers Island after two inmates attacked two guards in what is being called a planned assault.

One of the attacks was caught on video.

The incidents are raising new questions about violence at the massive jail complex and whether new initiatives are working.

The bruised and swollen eye of a correction officer is the latest result of an attack, union officials say, by a Rikers inmate.

"The assaults are becoming more and more severe and more and more vicious towards the officers," said Elias Husamudeen, COBA President.

As part of their investigation, correction officials say they are looking at video, obtained by the Daily News, in which an inmate can be seen attacking and punching an officer.

A second officer, union officials say, was assaulted about the same time in a housing unit.

"We think gang related, the inmates were in the same set. So any of those kinds of situations we obviously want to limit and do everything we can to prevent. In this case, it was a planned event," said Joseph Ponte, the Correction Commissioner.

"Something that the union is against, they lock the officer in the cage with the inmate which, as the union has stated, it's bound to happen," Husamudeen said.

12 days ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio and correction officials announced new measures including Tasers, new screening procedures and emergency response units aimed at keeping the staff safer.

"Having ESU deployed in the building may have helped in the response to the assault, but that response was actually handled by the officers in housing unit very quickly," Ponte said.

Correction officials point out that the number of assaults on staff is down 17% and the number of arrests for those assaults rose 106%.

"They tout that the numbers are going down, the problem is the incidents we are having are more severe than previous," Husamudeen said.

Correction officials say they will now asses the latest attacks and make any necessary changes.

"What could we do better here? What kind of safety measures could we add for the staff to make sure the

situation is safer?" Ponte said.