Koehler & Isaacs-Writing the Use of Force or Use of Force Witness Report

By: Steven Isaacs

 General Counsel to NYC COBA

                During the course of your career, as a Correction Officer, you are called upon to write reports about incidents or occurrences related to your employment with the Department. One of the most important reports, if not the most important report you may have to write is a Use of Force Report or a Use of Force Witness Report. This article provides advice on to how to best write either of those reports.

                First, before you begin to write your report, make sure you are physically and mentally able to do so. Your health and safety are always the priority.  If as a result of the Use of Force you are injured, you should seek treatment pursuant to the Directive. A Use of Force or Witness Report is your official version of what occurred and will be reviewed by the Department for truthfulness and accuracy.  If you are unable to complete a report as soon as practicable after an incident because of an injury, the Directive permits you time to do so. You do not want to be rushed into writing your report unless you have a clear mind and can, to the best of your ability, recall the facts that led to your actions or observations.

If you are able to write your report following a Use of Force, you must follow the Department’s procedures set forth in the Use of Force Directive. Whenever you are writing either of these reports, you should have a copy of the Directive with you. The Directive is your guide to what you need to describe in your report. There is no reason you should not have your copy of the Directive with you as you write your report and refer to as needed to make sure you are complying with the Directive. Your report is your opportunity to explain the facts and circumstances, from your perspective, as to why using force was necessary.

One of the issues we have repeatedly seen in regards to Use of Force or Witness Reports is that Officers often report certain actions that they themselves are unsure of.  One of the reasons for this is that Uses of Force are often quick, stressful, and dangerous.  These are not optimal circumstances for complete and accurate recollection.  As you know, most, if not all of the Department’s facilities have cameras that record Uses of Force. Your report will be compared to the video for truthfulness and accuracy. If you are not sure of all of your actions, it is ok to write that. As long as you are providing a truthful and accurate report, you should only report those actions you are sure of.  After your initial report is submitted, the Directive and the Department’s Orders allow you to ask to review video footage of the Use of Force and provide a supplemental report to add to or correct any inaccuracies in your initial report. You will not be able to change your initial report. If your facility does not allow you to review the video after you have requested to do so, you should still write a supplemental report indicating you requested to review the video and provide a supplemental report but your request was denied. This will help us address issues in regards to your report if it is later called into question.

As always, please feel free to call our firm at 917-551-1300 and ask to speak with any of the attorneys in our Criminal/Disciplinary Practice and they will be happy to answer any questions on this subject that you may have.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay of $30,000 for NYC CO!

This case involved a Correction Officer, assigned to Horizon Juvenile Detention Center, who was fired for failing to fill out Horizon forms. We brought an Article 78 suit , which argued that the CO should have been given the same chance to fill out forms like everyone else, after initially refusing, but she was denied the opportunity to do so and was terminated. We successfully won her reinstatement with full back pay of $30,000.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay of $25,000 for NYC CO!

This case involved a Correction Officer, assigned to Horizon Juvenile Detention Center, who was fired for failing to fill out Horizon forms. We brought an Article 78 suit , which argued that the CO should have been given the same chance to fill out forms like everyone else, after initially refusing, but he was denied the opportunity to do so and was terminated. We successfully won his reinstatement with full back pay of $25,000.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay for NYC CO!

This case involved a Correction Officer, assigned to Horizon Juvenile Detention Center, who was fired for failing to fill out Horizon forms. We brought an Article 78 suit , which argued that the CO should have been given the same chance to fill out forms like everyone else, after initially refusing, but he was denied the opportunity to do so and was terminated. We successfully won his reinstatement with full back pay.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Reinstatement & Full Back Pay for NYC CO!

Koehler & Isaacs successfully represented a New York City Correction officer who was injured in two Use of Force cases. The CO was MMR for a year and then returned to work full duty. The DOC subsequently terminated him months after he returned to duty. Koehler & Isaacs sued, alleging violation of disability discrimination laws. Thanks to our vigorous legal representation and advocacy, we secured his reinstatement with full back pay.

Koehler & Isaacs Wins Significant Legal Victory for NYC Correction Officers

State Supreme Court Judge Acknowledges, for the First Time, That the City Has Failed to Keep Correction Officers Safe, Gives The Green Light for Potentially Precedent-Setting Case

By: Steven Isaacs & Liam Castro

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association brought a case, by its attorneys Koehler and Isaacs LLP, and the first of its kind in New York, against the City because of its failure to provide to correction officers proper training to deal with, and equipment to protect themselves against violent inmates. COBA believes the City’s failures have resulted, and continue to result in unnecessary, preventable, and serious injuries to its members. This is unacceptable.

The City asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the action because it believed this involved a dispute over tactics, over which the Court has no jurisdiction. On July 12, 2019, the Court released its decision entirely rejecting the City’s argument. The Supreme Court held the City failed to address the danger caused by violent inmates. “This systematic failure is due, in large part, to DOC’s decision not to properly train and equip correction officers so that they can maintain order and security in the jail system, and protect themselves and others from these dangerous inmates…” The City had “not shown that DOC has implemented the controls mandated by the (Workplace Violence Law) or conducted risk assessments for incidents of violence, or defused areas of concern by taking mitigating steps, such as considering the propensities of a part of a jail population, as well as properly training and equipping correction officers to address some of these problems.”

COBA General Counsel Steven Isaacs said that he “hopes the City, instead of the usual defensive reaction and appeal, carefully examines the Judge’s reasoning and addresses the violence in the jails by ensuring it provide proper training and equipment to protect correction officers. Furthermore, the Judge’s decision in this case can benefit all municipal employees in the state whose employers are not properly addressing and protecting them from injuries.”

“In 2013 the NYS Department of Labor found 5 serious systematic violations of the law by the City’s Correction Department,” said COBA Director of Legal Affairs Marc Steier. “Since then, and particularly under the current union administration, the COBA has constantly pointed out the ineffectual Workplace Violence program at the Department. This is a historic judicial decision that gives all municipal workers a meaningful avenue of redress. The Judge’s denunciation of the Department’s reckless disregard of Officer’s safety validates what we have always known – Correction Officers did not “sign up” to be punching bags for inmates or cannon fodder for political ends. Unbelievably, the City’s attorneys made this very argument and even suggested the matter unworthy of judicial review. The reality is that the Department has a special relationship to keep its workers safe – a relationship they have long ignored in favor of so-called reform changes that make everyone unsafe. Perhaps with Judge Rubén Franco’s assistance, we can finally see sanity restored along with security.”

DAILY NEWS – Mercedes Maldonado, proves why K&I is the law firm union members turn to when defending their employment rights!

Correction officer fired after being injured at work settles suit with DOC

Chelsea Rose Marcius, New York Daily News
July 14, 2019


Correction Officer Michael Dispigno is back on the job after winning a wrongful termination suit against the Department of Correction that stemmed from his treatment for damage to his right knee, union officials told the Daily News.

Dispigno, 27, tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus while going through an agility course at the DOC academy in Middle Village, Queens in February 2016 — hearing a sickening pop, but treating the pain with ice packs and reporting to work the next day.

But when the pain persisted, the Brooklyn officer went to a doctor, who told him he needed surgery. The DOC’s Health Management Division approved his time off for the procedure.

Dispigno had the operation, but opted out of full ACL reconstruction that would’ve required a much longer post-surgical rehabilitation — and a lot of missed work time.

Read More

Koehler & Isaacs – Employment Law Attorneys

The United States Congress enacted the first federal employment law in 1888. Now, more than 180 federal laws mandate how employers may and may not treat their employees. In addition, every state in the union has its own employment laws that employers must comply with.

Federal employment laws cover every phase of the employee-employer relationship: applying, hiring, training, working, paying, promoting, disciplining, and terminating the employer-employee relationship. How do employers, especially small to medium-sized companies, keep up with the ever-changing landscape of employment law? How do employers ensure that their employment decisions will not get them into hot water with the federal or state government?

Any qualified employment and labor law attorney will tell you that preventative advice and counseling is the best way for employers to keep from accidentally violating federal or state employment laws. Our attorneys work closely with employers and human resource professionals to help them understand the basics of employment law and keep their businesses in compliance with both federal and state regulations. 

Our law firm advises businesses of all types and sizes on the following matters:

  • Employment agreements, including confidentiality agreements and non-compete clauses
  • Employee handbooks to disseminate company rules, policies and regulations
  • Employment discrimination, including disability discrimination
  • Family medical leave
  • Wage and hour laws
  • Sexual harassment

Koehler & Isaacs – Sexual Harassment Attorneys

Workplace sexual harassment is illegal between employees, between a supervisor and an employee, and often between an employee and an outside contractor or vendor.  The EEOC recognizes two types of sexual harassment.  The first is known as “quid pro quo” harassment, or “this for that” harassment.  Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee is offered an employment benefit in return for sexual favors.  The second type of sexual harassment is known as “hostile work environment” harassment.  A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is exposed to a pattern of unwanted sexual behavior, comments, or visual displays – such that the employee begins to fear coming to work.  The employee must show that he or she has complained about the behavior to his or her direct supervisor and that managers have failed to take action to stop the harassment from occurring.

Because an employee’s record of complaint is key to proving a charge of hostile work environment harassment, it is important for employers to establish, publish, and distribute a clearly worded complaint procedure for employees to follow.  It is similarly important for employers to keep records showing they take action in response to any complaints of sexual harassment.