Facing a possible federal lawsuit over abuse and corruption at the New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would seek to change civil service laws to allow his administration to use uniformed officers from outside the Correction Department to help fix the system, reports the New York Times. The proposal, which put union leaders on the defensive, appeared to acknowledge that some of the highest ranking uniformed officers were an obstacle to reform at Rikers, something critics have long argued. “We're handcuffed by some laws, in terms of how we choose personnel,” de Blasio said. “And we are going to work to change those laws, because we have to have the flexibility to bring in people who can help us really fix something profoundly broken.”
The Times reported earlier that the city last year did not provide federal investigators with large sections of an internal audit that described the omission of hundreds of fights from the official statistics on violence at the adolescent jail. For decades, there have been allegations of brutality and corruption along the chain of command at Rikers. When making promotions, it can be difficult to find candidates untainted by some form of misconduct, say former correction commissioners. “He's got a thin bench,” Martin Horn, a former commissioner, said of current chief Joseph Ponte.