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NYC corrections training chief quits over transfers of COs who sought selfies with mayor

Robert Gonzalez said it was not the first time he reprimanded the recruiting COs for taking selfies in uniform with elected officials, which is against department policy


Former Deputy Commissioner Robert Gonzalez. (NYPD)


By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Four correction officers’ wish for a selfie with Mayor Adams ended up costing the job of Correction Department training chief Robert Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who held the rank of deputy commissioner, says he resigned abruptly in January because Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie ordered him to reverse the transfers of the four recruiting section officers, who he felt were dogging it on the job.

A spokeswoman for Maginley-Liddie claimed Gonzalez was “not acting in good faith” when he made the transfers — though she would not specify what that meant.

Gonzalez, a former NYPD lieutenant, says he had long been frustrated with the recruiting officers’ work — and the last straw came Jan. 12, when the officers left their recruiting table during a Correction Academy graduation ceremony and got selfies with Adams after the mayor addressed the recruit class.

“What annoyed me was he [Mayor Adams]’s leaving in a hurry to get to another event, and he’s accosted for the selfies.’ Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said it was not the first time he reprimanded the recruiting officers for taking selfies in uniform with elected officials, a no-no under department policy. He ordered the transfers immediately.

He offered other reasons for wanting the officers relieved of recruiting duty. “They were complaining about places they had to go to recruit candidates,” he said. “They were doing everything but recruiting.”

The officers had been temporarily assigned to recruitment, so the transfers meant only that they were to be returned to their official assignments in jails.

Gonzalez says Maginley-Liddie called him the next evening — Jan. 13, a Saturday night — and ordered him to rescind the transfers.

“She said, ‘I have to undo them,’ and I said, ‘If you force me to rescind the transfers, you leave me no choice but to resign,’” Gonzalez said. “She said, ‘OK, resign.’”

He emailed his resignation at 7:46 a.m. the next morning, Jan. 14.

Gonzalez said he was surprised that Maginley-Liddie asked him to resign, because at the graduation ceremony she had personally thanked him for doing an “amazing job” organizing the event.

“My decision to resign as the deputy commissioner of training was a direct result of Commissioner Maginley’s lack of support and her intention to undermine my authority,” Gonzalez said.

Annais Morales, a Correction spokeswoman, declined to say exactly what triggered Maginley-Liddie’s phone call to Gonzalez.

“Maginley-Liddie reviewed the actions and decision of former DC Gonzalez and determined that they were neither warranted or justified,” Morales said. “She found that former DC Gonzalez was not acting in good faith when he made this transfer. Being a uniformed officer should never supersede basic rights.”

The Daily News reported last week that Maginley-Liddie had postponed an academy class slated to start Feb. 15 because it only had 40 recruits.

“Perhaps if they were more focused on recruiting there would be more than 40 people interested and eligible to hire in the next Correction Academy class,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez alleged that Kazi Hasan, president of the Bangladeshi Correction Society, a fraternal group, complained about the transfers to City Hall, and a City Hall official called Maginley-Liddie.

“She allowed pressure from City Hall to facilitate her decision despite the fact that these officers were ineffective in their role,” Gonzalez said.

Morales did not address the question of whether or not a City Hall official contacted Maginley-Liddie on the matter. The mayor’s press office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Hasan denied making such a call. “I didn’t reach out to anybody,” he told The News.

Correction Officer Mahabub Sujon, the vice president of the society and one of the officers who was transferred, also said he didn’t make any calls. “I’m not talking about this,” he said.

The other three officers either declined comment or could not be reached.

After Gonzalez retired from the NYPD, he worked for the state Attorney General’s office before accepting the Correction Department job.

During his tenure with correction, he set up an arrangement in which Correction Department recruits are trained in the NYPD Police Academy.

He said he created a field training program where recruits did 12 weeks in the academy and another eight weeks shadowing correction officers in the jails.

“We didn’t lose an officer during that period,” he said. “In the past, new officers without field training would arrive in the jails and freak out. That was a game changer.”

He said he also developed a scholarship program for correction officers who wanted to improve or extend their education.

Gonzalez plans to continue teaching at Mercy University. Assistant Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson has taken his spot as head of training.

Gonzalez said that during his tenure at Correction, he was struck by how much officers fight against being assigned to the jails. Officers would file discrimination complaints against their supervisors just to avoid being moved to a jail post, he said.

“Some officers will do anything not to go back in the jails,” Gonzalez said. “They will lie, manipulate, make up stories. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

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