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Rikers Island fight caught on video - Eyewitness News Exclusive

August 23, 2013 2:43:57 PM PDT
An Eyewitness News Exclusive, wild melee on Rikers Island with inmates fighting with mop sticks and chairs and even a knife for more than an hour.

Why did officers not break it up?

Investigative Reporter Sarah Wallace has covered violence in the City's jails for years.

What's most disturbing about the video is that officers and inmates say it's just one example of an escalating problem of violence on Rikers, often sparked by gangs.

Officers claim there are simply not enough of them to keep the peace.

By the time officers in riot gear get into this housing unit in GRVC on RIkers island on August 5th, the inmate fight was in full swing.

"They're tossing chairs at each other, they have brooms, they have all kinds of weapons, and we're outnumbered," said Norman Seabrook, President, COBA.

Seabrook heads up the Correction Officer's union.

SARAH WALLACE: "People are going to look at this and wonder, why aren't the officers stepping in?"

NORMAN SEABROOK "Because we don't have the staff to break it up. The officers certainly can't go in there with just 3 officers against 60 inmates."

SARAH:"But the officers are just letting this happen?" "What else are we going to do?"

SEABROOK"The only thing they could possibly do at this point is watch is this point." Because going down there, they're subjected to violence that they're turning on each other, and then they turn on us. Which they've done already. So it clearly shows that there is not enough staff in the department and the management in the department has not trained correction officers properly in how to deal with these types of situations.

Seabrook says the jail is down 22 officers and that staffing in all the jails is down from 10 years ago.

"At one point, you can hear an officer yelling in vain at inmates to get back in their cells; one inmate repeatedly gets cup after cup of hot water to douse on targets," he adds.

He continues, "And that's why we took baby oil from inmates because they would mix the two together and it would stick on the body."

Seabrook goes on to say nobody called ESU units.

32 Inmates were disciplined, some will be criminally charged on assault and weapons possesion charges. The Correction Department notes there are 12,000 inmates in the system, but adds: "There is every indication that this situation could have been handled differently and that this incident went on far too long. Every issue will be addressed to prevent a reoccurrence." (Eldin Villafane, Deputy Commissioner, Public Information).

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