Skip to content
Mount Vernon, NY Police face federal civil rights investigation

 | Breaking News Updates

Mount Vernon, NY Police face federal civil rights investigation

| Latest News Headlines | Today Headlines

Federal prosecutors have opened a civil rights investigation to determine whether the Mount Vernon, NY Police Department engaged in an “illegal policing model or practice,” officials said Friday.

Investigators will examine reports that officers at Mount Vernon routinely use excessive force, conduct illegal strip searches and body cavities during arrests and tamper evidence, officials said.

The investigation will also focus on whether officers targeted black residents in Mount Vernon – a New York suburb of about 66,000 people in Westchester County, just north of the Bronx. – for ill-treatment, officials said. About 60 percent of the residents of Mount Vernon are black.

“Police officers have difficult jobs,” said Damian Williams, the US attorney in Manhattan, announcing the investigation. “Most of them do their jobs honorably, legally and with distinction, respecting the rights of those they have sworn to protect. But when officers break the law, they violate their oath and undermine community trust.

Mr Williams, who became the Supreme Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York last month, urged Mount Vernon residents to report to his office any information they may have about police misconduct.

The investigation, which will be led by prosecutors in the Southern District and the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, is the fourth such investigation that the Biden administration has opened since April. The others relate to the police departments of three major cities: Louisville, Minneapolis and Phoenix.

The Mount Vernon investigation began after a thorough review of publicly available information and will encompass the police department’s policies, training practices and internal investigations, officials said.

The Mount Vernon municipal government will also be scrutinized as part of the investigation, officials said. The police department and the office of the city’s mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Friday’s announcement followed a series of articles from local Gothamist news outlet implicating allegations of police corruption by Mount Vernon officers based on hours of secret tapes made by a whistleblower from 2017 to 2020.

The recordings capture officers of a since-disbanded narcotics unit, describing, observing or participating in police wrongdoing, including inciting residents to commit crimes and conspiring with drug traffickers.

Kristen Clarke, the deputy attorney general who heads the civil rights division, told a press conference on Friday that an initial review of complaints about the department offered “significant justification” for further investigation.

The complaints, Ms Clarke said, included reports that officers at Mount Vernon used excessive force against people handcuffed or arrested for non-violent offenses, including minors, resulting in serious injury in some cases.

“We have also received reports that officers are targeting black residents for abuse and excessive force,” she added, “including information suggesting that supervisors are teaching this targeting to their subordinates.”

In April, Westchester County Prosecutor Miriam E. Rocah urged the Justice Department to investigate Mount Vernon Police for “widespread and persistent alleged civil rights violations.”

Ms Rocah said at the time that her office had opened criminal investigations into individual agents, but the operations, training practices and policies of the department needed to be examined separately to determine whether the police were “systematically violating civil rights. people”.

In March, Ms Rocah sent a letter to Glenn Scott, the Commissioner of Police, expressing “serious concern” that some officers may have carried out illegal searches as part of “routine procedure”. She said her office received a number of complaints from 2012 and 2020 regarding such behavior.

Ms Rocah said in a statement on Friday that she welcomed the efforts of the federal government to “vigorously defend civil rights laws through a full investigation.”

“Today’s announcement demonstrates that parallel elements of the justice system are working to help create a safe environment for our communities,” she said.

The Mount Vernon department, which has about 200 officers, has long been the subject of criticism.

Decades ago, the city government and police department “were so notoriously corrupt” that some in the FBI “called the city Mount Vermin,” wrote Marc Ruskin, a retired special agent from the office, in his 2017 memoirs.

Top Stories Google News Mount Vernon, NY Police face federal civil rights investigation

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.