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April 02, 2024

Correction officer terminated after being found guilty of using excessive force against an inmate and filing a false report concerning the event

A former employee [Petitioner] of the New York City Department of Correction [DOC] challenged his being terminated after being found guilty of excessive use of force against an inmate and submitting a false use of force report. The Appellate Division unanimously dismissed his appeal, opining that substantial evidence supported the findings of the Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] that Petitioner used "excessive and unjustified force against an inmate" in the form of video footage showing Petitioner run up behind the inmate and punch the inmate in the side of the head, "all while the inmate was in restraints and compliant with two escort officers".

At his disciplinary hearing the Petitioner admitted that he struck the inmate as "emotional response" to the inmate's verbal taunts about having thrown a tray of food at Petitioner minutes earlier. The Appellate Division said that this evidence "sufficiently supports the ALJ's determination that [Petitioner] violated DOC's Use of Force Directive, which prohibits the use of high impact force, including [s]trikes or blows to the head" unless a staff member "is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death," and prohibits the use of any force to retaliate against an inmate or in "response to an inmate's verbal insults, threats, or swearing."

Accordingly, the Court said DOC's decision to terminate Petitioner's employment was not an abuse of discretion considering the severity of Petitioner's conduct, which created "a needless risk of serious injury to the inmate" and, citing Matter of Harp v New York City Police Dept., 96 NY2d 892, held that the penalty imposed does not shock one's sense of fairness, "notwithstanding [Petitioner's] lack of disciplinary record."

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

 

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