DOI Probe Finds ‘One-Quarter’ of Jail Officers Hired in 2016 Had ‘Red Flags,’ Should Never Have Gotten Jobs

Investigators concluded that “over one-quarter” of new Correction officers should never have been hired.

A sampling shows more than 85 of the people the city Correction Department hired two years ago had red flags that should have kept them from getting jail jobs, according to a Department of Investigation report.

All told, 88 of the 291 recruits spot-checked — more than 25% — had prior arrests, had been fired from previous jobs or had ties to inmates, the review found.

The Investigation Department conducted a yearlong probe of the jail’s Applicant Investigation Unit and looked at new hires brought on as part of the January, June and December 2016 classes.

The probe was a follow up to a similar department probe published in January 2015. That review found jail brass frequently hired questionable candidates to work as correction officers, including some with gang ties and disturbing arrest records.

After that report was issued, city jail officials vowed major changes to their hiring practices, including better screening systems. But the latest Investigation Department report, “Persistent Problems in the Hiring of City Correction Officers,” found many of those changes were never implemented.

The new probe was in part triggered by the arrest of Correction Officer James Brown on allegations he smuggled in alcohol that was camouflaged in an iced tea bottle and eight Ziploc bags with tobacco and marijuana hidden in his underwear.

Brown was one of 665 recruits in the department’s January 2016 class. City probers reviewed his applicant file after his arrest and found he had a “spotty employment history.” That included a stint at the city’s Parks Department, where he was fired for “excessive lateness.” In 2004, he resigned from the U.S. Park Police after he failed a probationary evaluation.

Additionally, Brown told the Correction Department he had no major debt and was up to date on child support payments when he actually was struggling to pay $8,000 in back support.

“The information collectively detailed above should have prevented … Brown’s hiring, especially in light of the hiring reforms (the Correction Department) said it had implemented,” the investigators said.

A former staffer in the application unit told the Daily News that he felt forced to approve questionable applications. Investigators in the unit were overwhelmed with the number of candidate reviews they had to complete and were often rushed to finish their screenings to meet high demand, the retired investigator said.