Supplemental Report on September 11 Detainees' Allegations of Abuse at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York
Office of the Inspector General
This report details our investigation of allegations of physical and verbal abuse against some detainees at the MDC. It is important to note that these allegations were not against all officers at the MDC, and that most MDC officers performed their duties in a professional manner under difficult circumstances in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. After the attacks, the MDC staff worked long hours for extended periods, without detailed information about the detainees' connections to the attacks or to terrorism in general. Moreover, some MDC staff members lost relatives, friends, and colleagues in the attacks. The atmosphere at the MDC was highly charged and emotional, particularly in the initial period after the attacks.
However, these circumstances do not justify any abuse towards any detainee, as the BOP officers we interviewed readily acknowledged. We concluded that some MDC staff members did abuse some of the detainees. We did not find that the detainees were brutally beaten, but we found evidence that some officers slammed detainees against the wall, twisted their arms and hands in painful ways, stepped on their leg restraint chains, and punished them by keeping them restrained for long periods of time. We determined that the way these MDC officers handled some detainees was in many respects unprofessional, inappropriate, and in violation of BOP policy.
As described in detail in this report, we based our conclusion on a variety of factors. First, the detainees' allegations were specific and, although not identical, largely consistent. In addition, several detainees appeared credible to us when we interviewed them.
Second, the detainees did not make blanket allegations of mistreatment, but distinguished certain MDC officers as abusive and others as professional. Also, the detainees' allegations about their treatment at the MDC contrasted with their description of their treatment at other detention facilities. Most detainees did not have complaints about their treatment at other institutions or by other officers - their allegations of abuse generally were confined to their treatment at the MDC.
Third, several MDC officers provided first-hand corroboration for allegations of mistreatment, including the identities of the offending officers. These officers also made distinctions among officers and practices, lending credence to their testimony.
Fourth, we found unpersuasive the general and blanket denials of mistreatment by many MDC officers who were the subjects of our review. Some officers denied taking actions that we knew occurred based on videotape evidence and other officers' testimony, and other officers we interviewed described some of their actions in terms that lacked credibility. For example, some said that detainees never were pressed against the wall or even touched the wall, which we know to be untrue. Others claimed that officers were extraordinarily polite to the detainees, or that they never heard officers curse in the prison, or that they treated the detainees with "kid gloves." We found many officers lacked credibility and candor regarding their descriptions of what occurred in the MDC, which calls into question their categorical denials of any instances of abuse.
Fifth, videotapes of officers' interactions with detainees, which we were ultimately able to obtain from the MDC after much difficulty, provided support for the detainees' allegations and also undercut the statements of various officers. We were told that the abuse of detainees declined when the officers' actions were being videotaped, which one would expect. Nevertheless, the videotapes showed instances of a detainee being slammed against the wall and detainees being pressed by their heads or necks, despite officers' denials that this ever occurred and despite statements by senior BOP officials that such actions were not appropriate. Also, contrary to statements made by several officers in their interviews with the OIG, we heard officers on the videotapes using curses in front of the detainees and making derogatory statements about detainees off-camera. The videotapes also confirm that officers placed detainees against an American flag t-shirt in the sally port, which was taped to the wall in the same place for many months, despite officers' denials of the existence of such a t-shirt or claims that it was removed after a short time.
Moreover, the videotapes showed that some MDC staff members misused strip searches and restraints to punish detainees and that officers improperly and illegally recorded detainees' meetings with their attorneys.
In sum, we believe that the evidence developed in our investigation shows physical and verbal abuse of some detainees by some MDC staff members. We believe that the BOP should take administrative action against those employees who committed these abuses. Further, we believe the BOP should take steps to prevent these types of abuse from occurring in the future, including implementing the recommendations we made in this report. We therefore are providing this report to the BOP for appropriate action.