Bronx, NY - Two New York Police Department (NYPD) detectives from the Bronx have accused correction officers of not helping them while they wrestled for 30 minutes with a 250-pound inmate on Rikers Island.
According to the New York Daily News, on Jan. 17, the two detectives had to call for assistance from their precinct - 12 miles away from Rikers Island -because about eight correction officers stood and watched instead of assisting the officers with an inmate, according to Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association.
“If the roles were reversed,” Palladino said, “I know our detectives would have engaged.”
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA) challenged the accuracy of the claim and said the detectives were trying to blame the corrections officers for letting the inmate get away from them.
“The assertion that correction officers are to blame here or failed to help the detectives is false,” said COBA President Elias Husamudeen. “Correction officers have never tried to blame their mistakes on other members of law enforcement.”
The incident occurred when NYPD detectives Steven Reyes and Sheldon Smith drove to Rikers to pick up Jose Mateo, 34.
The detectives were arresting Mateo for choking his girlfriend with a telephone wire.
Mateo was already serving four months for attempted assault after he was accused of hitting his 58-year-old father in the head with an eight-pound dumbbell, according to the New York Daily News.
Mateo resisted arrest when correction officers transferred him to the police department.
The detectives used two pairs of handcuffs due to Mateo’s large frame, and then put him into a squad car. Det. Smith sat in the back seat next to him.
When Det. Reyes headed back into the jail to get Mateo’s property, the inmate slipped his handcuffs under his feet and in front of his body, and tried to escape.
Det. Smith got out to prevent Mateo from exiting out one door, but Mateo escaped through another other door.
Mateo got about 10 feet away before Det. Smith grabbed him, and Det. Reyes rushed back to help.
The three wrestled and grappled and rolled around on the ground while correction officers watched, Palladino said.
At one point, Palladino said, the detectives yelled for leg shackles, but one correction officer refused because he said he’d never get them back, even when Det. Smith told the officer he’d return them.
The detectives called their precinct and fellow officers arrived with leg shackles, and Mateo was taken back into custody.
The correction officers said the detectives were given plastic ties to restrain Mateo’s legs but claimed that they were never asked to provide shackles, according to the New York Daily News.
Palladino said the two detectives suffered back, shoulder, and knee injuries, and have been out of work since the incident.