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Millions in Security Equipment Wasted at Rikers Island

When officials at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex closed the facility's harbor and bike patrol units, and gutted staff in emergency services and firefighting units, they were trying to deal with budget cuts. Yet insiders said the move resulted in millions of wasted dollars due to mothballed equipment.

The arsenal of equipment that was bought to patrol the sprawling 400-acre Rikers complex included a fire truck, boats, Jet Skis, bicycles and scuba gear. The expansive collection of security equipment was part of the management policies of former Corrections Commissioner Bernard Kerik – who in 2010 received a four-year sentence for tax fraud and making false statements. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.48].

"He was all about image and a show of force, and that can have value, but if they call your bluff and you have nothing to fight with, you could be in trouble," a former jail supervisor stated.

In the 1990s, Kerik authorized the purchase of two surplus U.S. Army armored vehicles. One was fitted with a turret capable of shooting chemical grenades to disperse rioting prisoners, though it never worked as planned.

"They put it on a flatbed truck and paraded it in front of the inmates to scare them, like 'look what we can do!'" said a retired guard. "Only, no, we can't because it doesn't work. It won't even start."

When the harbor unit was abolished, the unit's three boats, two Jet Skis and a dozen sets of scuba gear used to patrol the complex's shores were mothballed rather than being sold or given to other city agencies.

"We had a big wooden patrol boat, like the kind the NYPD harbor unit has, but they took it out of the water and put it in dry dock out in the open," according to one insider. "It was propped up, and the bottom of the hull was sitting on a dirt road. The paint was peeling off."

What became of the scuba team's air tanks, diving vests, wet suits and other equipment is unclear. According to a retired guard, the Jet Skis were kept in a storage shed but have since disappeared.

City of New York Department of Correction spokesman Robin Campbell said all the items were purchased in the 1990s, so they "have had little if no residual value for many years." He acknowledged the Army vehicles were inoperable and for "ceremonial purposes only."

The losers due to the missing and mothballed security equipment at the Rikers Island jail? New York City taxpayers, who had originally paid for most of the equipment.

Source: New York Post

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