Five Officers Stripped Of Ranks, Demoted Following Incident With Unruly Inmate
POSTED: 5:57 pm EDT April 14, 2004
UPDATED: 6:25 pm EDT April 14, 2004
BOSTON -- The union representing nearly 5,000 correction officers in Massachusetts said it is considering a strike vote to protest the demotion of five officers and the firing of another at the prison where defrocked priest John Geoghan was killed.
Steven Kennaway, president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, said Wednesday that the firing and demotions came in response to an incident with an inmate Jan. 28 at the Souza-Baranowski Correction Center in Shirley. The officers also were transferred to other prisons.
Kennaway said an inmate who was being escorted to the prison's health services unit kicked an officer in the groin. He was then subdued by six guards, who held him down on a gurney as he thrashed his legs, Kennaway said. The inmate received a black eye and two small lacerations near his eye, Kennaway said.
Kennaway said the union was informed Tuesday that two lieutenants and three sergeants were stripped of their ranks and demoted after an investigation by the Department of Correction's internal affairs division found that they engaged in misconduct and were unable to account for how the inmate received his injury.
The officer who was kicked in the groin was fired, Kennaway said, because the investigation determined that he gave the inmate his injury.
Justin Latini, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, said he was unaware of the details of the incident and could not immediately comment.
Geoghan was beaten and strangled to death last summer, allegedly by another inmate in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski. An investigation found that a handful of guards at MCI-Concord harassed and wrote trumped-up disciplinary reports that prompted Geoghan's transfer to the dangerous inmate unit where he was killed.
"Ever since Geoghan got killed ... there is a dramatic shift in policy," Kennaway said.
"Now, our officers are no longer allowed to utilize instinct when dealing with issues of force. They have to now consider what an outside person would think is necessary or prudent, not what the officer on the scene would think necessary or prudent."
He said union officials are considering calling for a strike vote within the next two weeks to protest the guards' treatment.
"We are going to send a message to this department - my people are not going to be subjected to this kind of inmate coddling just so they (corrections officials) won't be the subject of investigations in the future."
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