Rikers crisis: NYPD commissioner says calls to empty jail are ‘ludicrous,’ talks mayor’s plan

Local News

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled an emergency plan Tuesday to address ongoing issues at Rikers Island, including shifting NYPD officers to help operate courts to allow correction officers to shift back to duty at Rikers.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea on Wednesday shared with PIX11 more details behind that part of the plan, as well as his thoughts on activists calling for the city to empty the jail complex or stop sending people there.

“Any discussion of emptying out Rikers Island is, to me, ludicrous,” a passionate Shea said.

The commissioner said there are currently about 6,000 inmates at Rikers, and pointed out that before the bail reform legislation in late 2019, there was around 7,000 inmates.

“We know what happened when Rikers Island emptied out,” Shea said, referring to the city’s rise in violent crime in the years since.

“If the conditions are not safe, well then let’s improve them, for the sake of the guards and the sake of the inmates,” Shea said.

However, the commissioner believes it’s important to implement changes slowly and methodically, and in a way that doesn’t negatively impact public safety in the city, he said.

As far as the mayor’s plan to shift NYPD officers to help relieve staffing issues within the Department of Correction, Shea said they’re working out the details now.

“We’ve had talks over the last week or so about this,” Shea said. “The challenge is, how do we do it? The thought right now is overtime, but there’s clearly a lot of training that needs to be done,” he added.

The commissioner said one thing he does not want to do is take cops off the streets.

“We’re trying to get a lay of the land, in terms of how things are run…We need to see how they’re running it [and] would we make modifications,” Shea said.

According to Shea, first they must determine how many additional people are needed, then they can decide which officers from which units are shifted for the plan.

“We’re balancing a lot of balls here…It’s clearly a difficult situation,” the commissioner said.

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