Less than 24 hours after Mr. Maxwell addressed the County Legislators, two Westchester County corrections officers who less than five years of service were injured in an attack by an inmate, Tuesday night, about 6 p.m. One suffered a broken ankle and sustained breaks to his wrist and hand., during a struggle with an inmate at the county jail while attempting to restrain an adult male inmate in the Valhalla facility’s behavioral health unit. That officer will require surgery. The extent of the other officer’s injuries wasn’t yet known.
It is alleged that the inmate’s name is Ramsey, and he has a long history or assaulting officers, without receiving any charges from District Attorney’s office. One year ago, an officer defended himself him against inmate Ramsey and the County has been trying to bring charges against the officer. Now, this same inmate is responsible for injuring two more officers.
“The Westchester Correction Association is demanding prosecution of this assaultive inmate to the full extent of the law,” WCA VP Maxwell tells BW. “There must be a legal standard set that lives of Correction Officers matter in Westchester County.”
Correction Officers do not simply have to face assaults from inmates; inadequate jail infrastructure is now dangerous to an Officer’s well-being. An Officer with four years of service was recently injured when part of a ceiling in an inmate housing area collapsed rendering the Officer unconscious, just last week. Another officer was stabbed by an inmate a couple of weeks ago.
These are just most recent incidents of officer injuries. These officers had less than five years of service. According to county policy, if disabled retired by the county, the Officer will lose all entitlement to county health benefits.
“It’s not about just me anymore, one officer has three years, the other officer has two and a half years of service,” Maxwell tells the Legislators. “It’s sad that I’m sitting here talking to you about that and the union president Alonzo West is nowhere to be found. The last time you saw him, he was talking to the media, after I put out my press release about the [injured] officer… I brought this to the attention of all of you since 2012.”
These injuries are just the latest incident, Retired Westchester County Correction Officer Rickey Maxwell got hurt on the job in the line of duty in 2011, but because he had less than four years on the job at the time of his injury, Westchester County Department of Corrections (WCDOC) denied him healthcare benefits. After five years of unsuccessfully going through the proper channels, with no real assistance from the union, Officer Maxwell decided to break his silence in an exclusive interview with BW, January 23, 2016. Officer Maxwell also appeared on episode 66 of the People Before Politics Radio show, a week later January 31, 2016, to share his story as well.
In addition, Officer Maxwell took to his message to social media to bring attention to his situation and even started to attend Board of Legislator (BOL) meeting just trying to get some answers but Union President Alonzo West was not pleased Maxwell took his fight to the BOL. After speaking at the County Legislator’s meeting Officer Maxwell, was told ‘every time you go to the legislators you push the delay button on your situation.’ Even though COBA Vice President Neil Pellone spoke with Officer Maxwell on the phone in November and asked Maxwell to basically stand down until March, Maxwell holds little confidence in the union assistance in his case and has chosen to be proactive and fight for all of those other officers so they happen to get hurt on the job, they won’t have to go through the same ordeal he has dealt with.
According to Blacks In Law Enforcement in America (BLEA) NY Rep, Damon K, Jones, there are approximately 400 officers now working in the department with less than five years of service. “Are we to believe the county of Westchester refuses to change an outdated policy that places in jeopardy the healthcare of hundreds of correction officers who risk their lives on a daily basis with society’s worse?”
This county policy does not just affect Correction Officers. This outdated policy affects all law enforcement that is employed by Westchester County.
County officials have said this “county policy” should be resolved through contract negotiations. Why should a county policy be negotiated? The County Legislators and the County Executive should change the policy for the good will of officers that put their lives on the line every day for the taxpayers of Westchester County.
“It is a shame that Westchester County will ask its Correction, Police and other First Responders to respond to danger, save a life, protect and serve; but if you’re injured with less than five years of service, the county will retire you without health benefits,” WCA Vice President Maxwell shares with BW. “It just doesn’t make sense! The Westchester Correction Association expects our elected officials to recognize that Correction Officers or any other Officer in law enforcement are not just names tag and badge numbers on a sheet. We are people, families, and taxpayers. We expect more than political rhetoric when our health and workplace safety are at risk.”
I got Westchester COBA President Alonzo West and 1st Vice President Neil Pellone on the phone and both expressed previous Black Westchester stories and articles didn’t express their side of the story. They shared they didn’t have time to give me a quote on the phone but invited me to schedule an appointment and they would make themselves available for me to interview them. I invited both to appear on the Sunday, June 4th episode of the People Before Politics Radio Show and they accepted my invitation to tell their side of the story and how they feel they have been misrepresented by Jones and Maxwell in the press and on social media.
Both West and Pellone shared they think Maxwell has a case and should get his health benefits and that they are currently fighting for him.
Maxwell turned a fight for his health care benefits to using the Westchester Correction Association to become an advocate for other who may face the same fate.