Correction union boss outraged over ‘Keep Calm’ posters designed to reduce officer violence on inmates

By: 
Reuven Blau - NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The union representing city correction officers is furious over posters urging its members to “Keep Calm” and to hold their egos in check before using force against inmates.

The posters — designed by the department’s communications team — have been placed on the walls of all city jails.

They were posted days after a report by a federal monitor published April 18 found that the department had failed to make any strides to reduce violent officer attacks against inmates.

Steve Martin, the monitor, pointed out that the number of officer Use of Forces (UOF) has gone up while the inmate population has gone down over the past several years. 

But the union believes the posters are trying to encourage officers to avoid breaking up inmate fights or from protecting themselves.

“This isn’t f---ing Ford Motors,” fumed Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association. “This does nothing to reduce the violence in jails.”

The signs mimic the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters created by the British government to calm citizens before Nazi air attacks slammed the country during WWII.

“Keep Calm and Remember Your UOF” one poster reads.

“Follow the policy & make sure that if you have a use of force, it is a quality UOF,” the sign adds.

Another sign cautions: “Remember egos and UOF don’t mix. Do you know when and how to achieve a quality UOF? We’re here to help.”

The union notes that the signs come as inmate assaults on staff “with serious injury” went up by 34% last year, from 47 in 2016 to 63 in 2017, records show.

Husamudeen said that 438 jails officers got pushed, shoved, punched or had urine or feces thrown on them last year. None of those officers used force against the inmates, he added.

But the federal jail monitor highlighted multiple cases where officers and jail supervisors used excessive force against inmates.

That includes a jail captain who hit an inmate eight times inside a holding pen and an officer who sprayed an entire intake cell full of inmates with pepper spray.

On Monday, the department’s communication team defended the posters.

“These signs were designed to keep our dedicated staff fully informed and to provide guidance as they perform one of the toughest jobs in law enforcement,” said department spokesman Peter Thorne.

“Any suggestion we are trivializing Use of Force incidents is absurd and goes against the hard work this department has done to protect our officers from injury.”

Thorne noted that the department has announced a new Use of Force “action plan to prevent avoidable uses of force to help create safer working conditions.

“All relevant parties, including the union,” he added, “were offered the opportunity to give feedback before the posters were displayed.”