The Department of Correction failed to prove that an encounter between a Correction Officer and an inmate was not a use-of-force incident, and therefore charges that the CO filed a false report should be dismissed, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings ruled May 31.
“If nothing else, this case presents quite an anomaly in that the majority of use-of-force cases brought before this tribunal revolve around an officer’s failure to report s/he used force on an inmate,” Administrative Law Judge Ingrid M. Addison wrote in her decision. “In stark contradiction here, [the CO] reported that she used force and the department essentially asserts that her report was an elaborate concoction.”
Water Thrown on CO
CO Sedina Norris, a 17-year member of DOC who was represented by Andrew Rowe of Koehler & Isaacs, said an inmate she had reported for an infraction threw a bucketful of water at her and cursed her.
The ruling said she testified that when she pointed to the inmate in the presence of her supervisors, he “charged towards her. She instinctively threw a punch, which made contact, and was ordered to step back” by two Captains who proceeded to handcuff him.
Afterwards, wearing wet shoes, she slipped on the floor and injured her hand and shoulder. She was out sick for 46 days. DOC contended that she had lied about using force in order to justify the sick leave.
Ms. Norris did not file the use-of-force report until she was out on leave, and Captains involved in or investigating the incident had not reported that force was used. The report filed by Ms. Norris triggered a blizzard of paperwork minimizing any use of force. And that apparently led DOC to charge Ms. Norris with filing a false report.
Ms. Addison wrote that even after reading the reports and hearing testimony from many of the officers involved, “it is not entirely clear to me what occurred.”
‘A Good Officer’
She noted “areas of conflict” among the various statements and reports of the Captains involved. Further, she wrote, “I find it bizarre to suggest that 46 days of sick leave would motivate a seemingly good officer to concoct an elaborate scheme in which she accused herself of using force against an inmate, and implicated the Captains as witnesses.”
Attorneys representing DOC at the OATH hearing may make a final comment before DOC makes its decision on the charges.
“I’m very pleased with the ALJ’s determination in this case,” said COBA President Norman Seabrook. “This is yet another example of the way the DOC continues to usurp the legal rights of the men and women who patrol the toughest precincts in New York. If they would prosecute inmates as vigorously as they continue to prosecute Correction Officers, we might have less violence in the city’s jails.”