Jail guards union to sue over pepper spray ban at Bronx facility

The union that represents jail guards in New York City is to set to sue the state over a rule that prohibits officers from using pepper spray at a juvenile center in the Bronx.

The Correction Officers Benevolent Association's lawsuit follows several brawls at Horizon Juvenile Center that ended with dozens of guards hurt.

"Our suit seeks to authorize and provide our officers at Horizon with this critical tool in order to help save lives," COBA President Elias Husamudeen said in a statement. "The politics of criminal justice reform should never trump safety and security and we are confident the court will agree with our arguments."

On October 1, the city started moving 16- and 17-year-old inmates from Rikers Island to Horizon to implement the state's new Raise the Age law, which prohibits teenage detainees from being held at Rikers.

Guards at Rikers are allowed to carry pepper spray. But guards at juvenile facilities such as Horizon are not.

The state granted guards at Horizon a waiver to use pepper spray in very limited circumstances for one week. But that hasn't taken effect yet.

A spokesperson for the state's Commission of Correction said the commission cannot comment on potential lawsuits.

"That said, [Office of Children and Family Services] and [state Commission of Correction] certified the Horizon Juvenile Facility as a specialized juvenile detention facility for youth and as part of such certification, the City is required to comply with state law, state regulations and local laws that govern these entities," spokesman Justin Mason said. "Our charge and obligation is to ensure all facilities within our jurisdiction are complying with all state laws, rules and regulations."