One applicant to be a New York City correction officer had been fired from his last job as a security guard for stealing. Another admitted he had regularly socialized with gang members. Another had debts of more than $400,000.
Yet all those candidates and dozens like them were hired last year to be part of the force overseeing nearly 11,000 inmates on Rikers Island, according to a yearlong city probe of jail hiring practices released Thursday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the findings hours before they were to be announced.
The probe found systemic problems with the Department of Correction hiring system, including no recruiting strategy for the past six years, that allowed an alarmingly high number of hires who had arrest records, gang ties or other red flags that are markers for corruption.
Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said the chronic problems of violence, smuggling and bribery that plague the city jails can all be traced to the character and qualifications of the employees.
City investigators randomly pulled 153 application files of guards hired last year and found that 54 — or 35 percent — "presented significant red flags that should have either precluded their hiring outright or required further follow-up."
The probe found 79 hired officers admitted having friends or family members who were inmates — including one with nine relatives who had done time in Rikers. Ten new hires had been arrested more than once, and another 12 had been rejected by the significantly higher standards of the New York Police Department, including six for psychological reasons and one who failed a drug test.