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NY court officers speak out about understaffing

MANHATTAN, N.Y — New Yorkers tried to smuggle meat cleavers, brass knuckles and guns into courthouses this year.

Court Officers spoke out exclusively to PIX11 News Tuesday, saying attacks against officers in Supreme and Criminal Court have tripled over the past three years while their staffing levels have declined by 33%.

PIX11 concealed the identity of the Court Officers, who both said they are afraid for their safety and their jobs.

“You have to fight like your life is on the line because it could be on the line,” one officer told us.

He was attacked by a defendant inside a courthouse. “I was broadsided, I was slammed up against a wall and then you have to get control of the situation.”

“Then you have to go through the aftermath of it. The doctors. The therapy, the pain.”

A second officer says he was hurt inside one of the city’s criminal courthouses.

He recalled “he started choking my partner. I had to intervene.”

The unions representing Supreme and Criminal Court officers rallied in Downtown Brooklyn Tuesday.

They say Court Officer levels are down 33% over the last 10 years, a shortage caused by the economic downturn of 2008, followed by a large number of retirements and budget cuts.

Patrick Cullen, President of the New York State Supreme Court Officers Association said “if we can’t feel safe in the court houses how can we expect to keep the public safe?”

“We’ve been attempting to speak to our agency the Office of Court Administration, the Chief Administrative Judge,” said Dennis Quirk of the New York State Court Officers Association.

“For the past two years we are 350 to 400 court officers shorthanded.”

The Office of Court Administration fired back.

In a statement they told PIX11 News:

The safety and security of our court facilities is paramount. We are extremely confident in the dedication, training, skill and professionalism of all our 4,000 Court Officers throughout New York City and State in maintaining order and keeping the courts safe and secure for the Judges, lawyers, court staff, litigants and jurors who use them on a daily basis. Their vigilance is what caught the novelty inert hand grenade before it was brought into the Queens courthouse, something that they handle with ease on a daily basis throughout the court system.”