They haven’t been charged criminally, but 17 members of the city’s Corrections Department will face departmental charges for their roles in the death of Rikers Island inmate Layleen Polanco last June.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that three uniformed officers and a captain were immediately suspended without pay. There were no specifics about the fate of the other 13 individuals.
The decision comes after Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced this week that she would not prosecute those responsible for Polanco’s death. She suffered seizures and died on June 6, 2019 while being held in a “restrictive housing” quarters, which bear similarities to solitary confinement.
“The death of Layleen Polanco was an incredibly painful moment for our city,” said de Blasio. “What happened to Layleen was absolutely unacceptable and it is critical that there is accountability.”
The Medical Examiner’s office performed an autopsy and determined that Polanco succumbed to Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), resulting from a mutated gene. Gay City News, citing the Polanco family’s attorney, reported that a physician had warned the Corrections Department not to hold Polanco in solitary due to her epilepsy.
“We are committed to ensuring that all of our facilities are safe and humane,” Corrections Department Commissioner Cynthia Brann said on Friday. “Even one death in our custody is one too many and this swift and fair determination on internal discipline makes clear that the safety and well-being of people in our custody remains our top priority.”