Rikers Island correction officer brawls with supervisors amid Department of Correction crisis
A Rikers Island correction officer got into a brawl with a captain and an assistant deputy warden Monday — the latest sign of strife at the troubled agency amid Commissioner Cynthia Brann’s extended absence and complaints from staff about triple shifts.
An internal Correction Department report, as well as accounts from sources, reveals that Correction Officer Melvin Hird got into a dispute with the supervisors at the Anna M. Kross Center around 10 a.m.
Deputy Warden Tonya Johnson ordered staff not to open a door allowing Hird to exit after he’d been told to relieve a colleague working a triple shift, according to Joe Russo, head of the union representing assistant deputy and deputy wardens.
“I’m not a f—–g inmate. Let me out!” Hird shouted, according to sources.
Capt. Duke Rutherford intervened and the confrontation escalated, sources said. One source described the Rutherford and Hird insulting each other as colleagues held them back. Hird pushed Johnson, rushed Rutherford and started swinging, sources said.
Johnson, who was trying to break up the fight, was punched in the face, according to Russo. He emphasized that Johnson is well-respected in the jail and not to blame for the episode.
“This is what happens when one becomes fed up,” a source told the Daily News.
A Correction Department spokeswoman said the incident was under investigation.
“Unlike other essential city workers, correction officers are regularly subjected to inhumane working conditions from being forced to work triple shifts, to being victimized by increased assaults by gang members every day,” Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio said.
“This agency has been mismanaged for years,” he added.
Brann has not been seen since The News exclusively reported she’d gone to the hospital on March 10. Meanwhile, overworked staff has become a growing concern. On Sunday, 25 correction officers worked into a third tour, according to Russo. If completed, three tours is a full 24 hours of work.
“The officers get trapped. You cannot leave,” Russo said. “You can imagine how that plays into family life.”
City Council members slammed the Correction Department during a hearing Monday for an array of failures, many of which were first reported by The News.
The errors include an ongoing manhunt for an accused murderer accidentally released earlier this month from Rikers, as well as the deaths of two inmates within days of each other. Most significantly, an unknown number of criminal cases could be in jeopardy due to a screwup by a Correction Department contractor that resulted in the wrongful recording of more than 1,500 confidential inmates’ legal calls, some of which wound up in the hands of prosecutors.
A Correction Department spokeswoman declined to give an update on Brann’s condition, citing privacy reasons.