Over two decades as president of the New York City’s Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, Norman Seabrook has come to exert extraordinary control over the Correction Department, consulting with commissioners on key appointments, forging alliances with high-ranking uniformed correction leaders and speaking regularly with Mayor Bill de Blasio about department policy, the New York Times reports. His influence has paid enormous dividends for his members, but it has fed a culture of violence and corruption at Rikers.
The Times interviewed former correction commissioners, former senior City Hall aides, current and former department officials, and reviewed internal emails and other documents. The newspaper also did lengthy interviews with Seabrook. What emerged, says the Times, “was a portrait of a labor leader who wields remarkable power through a combination of political savvy and intimidation.” “I came to think that my wardens believed Norman was more important to their career than I was,” said Martin Horn, commissioner from 2003 to 2009. Under Seabrook’s leadership, correction officers have seen large gains in salary and pension benefits, reaching parity with firefighters and police officers. At the same time, officials Seabrook as the biggest obstacle to efforts to curb brutality and malfeasance at Rikers.