By Bill Parry
Taser guns will be used on Rikers Island beginning next month as part of new safety measures to protect staff Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday. The Department of Correction has ordered 20 of the controversial weapons and they will only be provided to captains supervising the Emergency Services Units charged with responding to violent incidents at the jail.
“By strategically pre-deploying emergency response teams to multiple locations and equipping them with tasers, we’re making sure that our officers get critical support in urgent situations faster and more effectively,” de Blasio said at a news conference on the island.
New scanners featuring the latest airport technology will also be introduced to combat high levels of contraband, especially weapons and drugs smuggled into the prison complex. They will be placed in the visitor processing center and other key locations on Rikers Island and other city jails to screen both inmates and visitors.
“New scanners will filter out even more contraband from our facilities, keeping our staff, inmates, and visitors safer than ever,” the mayor said.
In addition to the new technology upgrades, the ongoing federally mandated reforms on Rikers will be adding manpower. A new class of 700 recruits graduating in November will be the largest graduating class ever, with an additional 1,200 graduates joining the Department of Correction in the spring.
“Our reforms start and end with our officers — we seek to train, support and empower them,” DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said. “Although we still have much more to do, the infusion of new officers into the ranks will, in time, help ease the burden of extra shifts. The deployment of emergency response teams to each jail will integrate these forces better into facilities’ security procedures. Tasers for emergency service supervisors and supersensitive scanners will help prevent violence.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr