This summer the city's Department of Investigation implicated more than a dozen Correction officers for smuggling drugs and weapons onto Rikers Island. Perhaps they were lured by how easy it was: a DOI investigator posing as a Correction Officer was able to carry 250 bags of heroin, 24 strips of suboxone, a half-pound of marijuana, a 16-ounce water bottle full of vodka, and a razor blade through six different employee checkpoints at the jail.
According to a DOI release, the undercover officer carried the contraband in the pockets of his cargo pants; an employee could have earned $3,600 to smuggle the drugs and alcohol in, which would have had a resale value of $22,000.
The DOI's findings were part of a year-long investigation "into criminal activity and civil disorder at Rikers Island," that involved reviewing "hundreds of hours" of security footage, visiting the jail, and conducting "integrity tests."
These integrity tests also exposed inconsistent security procedures, for example, magnetometers that detect metal contraband on an individual that were set at different levels at different facilities, so the undercover investigator set off an alarm in one facility, but not another; security personnel that allowed the undercover investigator to walk into the facility after triggering the magnetometer, and without emptying his pockets; and the failure to follow current protocols, for example, improperly using a transfrisker wand to examine only the investigator’s belt after the investigator said his belt triggered the magnetometer alarm.
The DOI's findings, which will be released in a report before the end of the year, prompted the DOC to place drug-sniffing dogs at security check points, among other security improvements.
“I have zero tolerance for anyone, including staff, bringing contraband into DOC facilities," Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte said. "We are working on significant new steps to improve our methods for searching for contraband. These include: the requirement that all items including food and medications be x-rayed; the random deployment of drug-sniffing canines at facility front gates; and the deployment of Special Operations Division officers at front gates."
The report will detail the arrest of six DOC employees and a nurse for their roles in smuggling illicit goods into the jail.