An epic fail in Rikers reform

Post Editorial Board


Why on earth did the city hire a pack of SEAL Team 6 wannabes to train correction officers?

Monday’s Post broke the news of the $1.2 million wasted on “lessons” for the Correction Department’s Emergency Services Unit in inmate-control practices that are banned by the city’s deal with the feds to clean up the jails. “Tactics” like eye gouges, elbow strikes to the head and other facial blows.

Last year, the city settled a class-action suit for $3.5 million-plus, agreeing to strict rules against blows to the head and other reforms. So who hired the US Corrections-Special Operations Group for a three-year contract? The outfit promotes itself as offering paramilitary training, with emphasis on close-quarters combat and use of lethal force.

An NRA profile of USC-SOG’s leader, Joseph Garcia, cites his “Jekyll and Hyde persona common to a military drill instructor or a WWF wrestler.” Uh-huh.

This looks like an obscene fail of City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte’s approach of bringing in outsiders to fix things. For years, the NYPD and the FBI provided the training for the Correction Department’s ESU. It cost a lot less, and had to have been better than this brutal clown show.

We’ve long feared Ponte wasn’t up to the job. The department’s daily census averages 10,000 inmates — nearly five times the prison population Ponte managed in Maine.

Ponte doesn’t seem to have much changed the corruption and mismanagement that have plagued Rikers. This debacle reeks of both.

We don’t pretend to have the answers here. Perhaps the necessary fix involves something as drastic as policing expert Thomas Reppetto’s idea: Turn Rikers over to state management.

Ponte’s approach sure isn’t working.