Head NYC jail investigator resigns amid reports of guard violence

NEW YORK Fri Aug 22, 2014 3:04pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The commissioner in charge of investigations in New York City's jails resigned on Friday, nearly three weeks after a U.S. Department of Justice report described how guards routinely assaulted teenage inmates at the Rikers Island jail complex.

Florence Finkle was the city's deputy commissioner for integrity and policy for four and a half years, running an investigation division that was sharply criticized by federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.

The federal investigation said the city's Department of Correction was breaching the rights of male inmates aged 16 to 18 by failing to protect them from a "deep-seated culture of violence" at the jail complex on an island in the East River.

Guards were generally free to batter the teenagers without fear of consequences, sometimes even after they were cuffed, leaving them with broken bones and wounds that needed stitching, the report said.

Finkle's division, the report said, was "overwhelmed", "largely ineffectual", and was too quick to dismiss inmates' accounts of force in favor of guards' accounts.

Finkle's resignation was confirmed by Marti Adams, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio. Adams did not immediately respond to a request for further details. Finkle could not immediately be reached for comment.

The city's Department of Correction must respond to the federal report's recommendations or risk a civil lawsuit, and may be obliged to accept some form of federal oversight to ensure changes are made.

De Blasio, who took in January, has lamented conditions at the city's jails, and promised to improve them.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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