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Protecting Staff, Promoting Jail Safety


Brooklyn, N.Y.—Nearly 3,000 correction officers and captains, including 711 recruit officers, who graduated today, have completed 24 hours of new defensive tactical training that will promote safety in city jails, announced Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Joseph Ponte. The class of 711 new officers who graduated today is the largest graduating class in DOC history.


The new training program, called S.T.A.R.T. (Special Tactics and Responsible Techniques), features three days of brand new, highly interactive defensive tactics, bundled with de-escalation techniques, enabling officers to defuse conflicts and avoid using force, as well as responding appropriately when force is inevitable. Total assaults on staff have declined 16% in the first nine months of 2016. The Department is committed to continuing this downward trend by equipping officers with the very best defensive and de-escalation tactics.


The new S.T.A.R.T. curriculum includes instruction on:


  • Balance and stances;
  • Break falls;
  • Pressure points;
  • Strikes and kicks;
  • Punch defense;
  • Handcuffing;
  • Arm bars;
  • Ground fighting;
  • Choke breaks and
  • Edged weapons defense.


The training culminates with a hands-on, interactive role-play examination.


“The safety of our officers – their training, support, and empowerment – is the top priority of all our reforms. We have provided our hardworking staff the best defensive tactical training available so they can safely disengage from any dangerous situation,” Commissioner Ponte said. “Along with the many equipment and infrastructure improvements from the Mayor’s $200 million investment in officer safety, our officers have never had more tools to prevent and counter violence. They have risen to the challenge, creating safer jails without overusing punitive segregation of inmates. Safety of staff and safety of inmates goes hand in hand.”


New training has added two weeks and three days, or 144 hours, to the Academy term. The revised curriculum also emphasizes de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention, including a Safe Crisis Management course that trains officers dealing with adolescents on adolescent psychology, and Mental Health First Aid to recognize the signs of distress in mentally-ill inmates. Other courses reflect the Department’s new Use of Force policy. New or revised Academy courses introduced under Ponte include:


o   Crisis Intervention & Conflict Resolution

o   Probe Team Training

o   Cell Extraction Team Training

o   Direct Supervision

o   Young Inmate Management


While Commissioner Ponte stressed that no assault on an officer is ever acceptable, the training has helped lower the number of serious assaults on staff and serious uses of force department-wide. In the first nine months of 2016, assaults on staff resulting in serious injuries declined 34% and assaults on staff resulting in minor injuries declined 25%; overall assaults on staff dropped 16%. At the same time, uses of force resulting in serious injuries declined 37% and uses of force with minor injuries fell 19%.


In September, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Ponte announced a series of new officer-safety measures, including new scanners to screen for contraband and Tasers for Emergency Service supervisors, along with changes in staff deployment to more effectively and efficiently address violent incidents. The incoming class of recruits will also be the largest class ever, helping relieve some of the workload on existing Correction staff.


Since becoming Commissioner in April 2014, Ponte has implemented systemic reforms to improve the performance of DOC staff and reduce violence across the Department. Ponte immediately began revising the curriculum at the Correction Academy so that the rising officer corps would be trained on the best evidence-based practices to achieve those goals.


About the Graduating Class


The graduating class of 470 men and 241 women comes from a wide range of backgrounds. This diverse class possesses the combined educational expertise of 15 master’s degrees, 184 bachelor’s degrees, and 123 associate’s degree, 209 have some college credits, and 73 have a military background. The average age of the class is 30.


The Department of Correction is often regarded as a family and is known for employing multiple generations of family members. This recruit class is no different, with 128 recruits having family members who are currently on the job. These relatives include 35 cousins, 21 mothers, 16 brothers, 14 fathers, 13 uncles, 11 aunts, 11 sisters, three husbands, two wives, one daughter, and one grandmother.


The class includes recruit officers from every borough with Brooklyn – at 217 – contributing the largest number, and 171 from Queens, 109 from the Bronx, 48 from Manhattan, and 31 from Staten Island. In addition, there are 51 from Nassau County, 35 from Suffolk County, 25 from Westchester, 14 from Orange County, nine from Rockland County, and one from Putnam County. The class valedictorian is Recruit Officer Leticia Thomas. The salutatorian is Recruit Officer Younis Said Saleh.


About the New York City Department of Correction


The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) provides for the care, custody, and control of persons accused of crimes or convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. The Department manages 12 inmate facilities, 9 of which are located on Rikers Island. In addition, the Department operates two hospital Prison Wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court holding facilities in each borough. During Fiscal Year 2016, the Department handled over 63,000 admissions and managed an average daily inmate population of approximately 9,790 individuals.