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Prison unions gain strong support: Mayor Eric Adams

As recently as last month, a federal comptroller appointed to oversee improvements at Rikers Island had described Ms Townsend as “critical to the success of this reform effort in the future”, praising her competence in pursuing disciplinary cases against officers who use inappropriate force, among other things.

But the unions had come to hate her for that particular job.

As Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence, Investigations and Trials, she had also been tasked with reviewing some allegations of sick leave abuse, including an incident on Columbus Day in which more than a dozen officers Corrections from a Queens courthouse left in ambulances to avoid being deployed to Rikers Island.

She was also examining an incident in August in which dozens of transport officers claimed more than 40 of their buses were too broken down to drive, causing inmates to miss court dates and further mess with Rikers and in the justice system.

Frustrated, the unions launched an online petition calling for Ms Townsend’s dismissal, registering at least 290 signatures. A video released by the Prison Officers’ Union over the summer attacked conditions in prisons and celebrated the resignation of the then prison commissioner, Mr Schiraldi’s predecessor. It ended with the words “Who’s next?” Superimposed on photos of five other directors, including Ms. Townsend.

In December, Ms. Townsend said, Mr. Molina asked her if she could get rid of the 2,000 disciplinary cases, in a meeting first reported by the New York Daily News.

They agreed to meet again in January, Mr. Molina’s first working Monday. She was fired that day, informed by human resources that the “commissioner is going in a different direction”. She said she was escorted out of the department’s headquarters in Queens.

Ms Townsend’s sacking is not the first time that prison officers have ousted a high-level investigator in the department who had made enemies of the prison unions. Under Blasio’s administration, in 2014, the Correctional Service forced the resignation of another official who held a similar post to Ms Townsend, Florence Finkle.

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