Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Rockland County and Its Sheriff’s
Department Reveals Violations of Correction Officers 1st and 14th Amendment Rights

New York, New York March 18, 2002 - Attorneys representing three Rockland County Correction Officers today filed a federal civil complaint against Rockland County and its Sheriff’s Department. The complaint, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, brings to light a pattern of racist conduct committed by officials in the Sheriff’s Department. The three plaintiffs, a white male of German descent, an African-American male and an African-American female, claim that they were wrongfully disciplined by their supervisors, who, among other things, depicted their faces on racist flyers and directed racial epithets at them, all within the confines of a taxpayer-financed facility, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the complaint, after the three correction officers had complained to their supervisors that the Sheriff’s Department had improperly reduced the number of full time correction officers in the Transport Division (New York State Commission of Corrections requires that there be at least nine full time correction officers in the Transport Division, particularly for safety reasons), they were allegedly harassed by both their supervisors and by part time transport officers who among other things, created a flyer, which superimposed their faces on the body of a Nazi Officer in the company of Adolph Hitler. Indeed, it was reported that a department manager personally posted this flyer.

When the three correction officers objected to this outrageous behavior, not only were they further ridiculed, they were transferred to work in the Jail Division, resulting in a loss of their seniority in the Department. Specifically, after one African-American correction officer began to complain about this treatment, a part time transport officer asked him whether he could “talk Black to him” and whether he “wanted a coupon for fried chicken.” All of these remarks were made in earshot of one of the supervising lieutenants, who did nothing to reprimand the part time transport officer.

Speaking on behalf of the three Correction Officers, William Hickey, President of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association of Rockland County stated, “What occurred here is a clear violation of the New York State Commission of Correction Mandates. Replacing full time correction officers with less experienced, less qualified, part time transport officers endangers public safety. A destructive smear campaign was clearly waged against those officers who were considering the public’s best interest and trying to prevent this violation from continuing. What we’re talking about here is the well-being of the entire Rockland County community.”

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For further information, members of the press are invited to attend a news conference with the President of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association of Rockland County, the three plaintiffs, and their attorneys, on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 at 12:00 PM in the law offices of Koehler & Isaacs, LLP, 120 Broadway 29th Floor, New York, NY 10271. Telephone: 917-551-1300.

Koehler & Isaacs LLP is a full service law firm, which specializes in labor and employment law. The firm’s Senior Partner, Richard J. Koehler, is a former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections and former Chief of Personnel of the New York City Police Department.