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DA Orders Release After Police Commissioner Named By Mount Vernon City Council Charged

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas announcing the appointment of new Public Safety Commissioner Shawn Harris last year.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas announcing the appointment of new Public Safety Commissioner Shawn Harris last year. Photo Credit: Contributed

It took an order from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office to release the newly reappointed top cop in Mount Vernon from custody.

On Monday, July 15, former police commissioner Shawn Harris was reappointed as the Commissioner of Public Safety in charge of the Mount Vernon Police Department by acting Mayor Andre Wallace, despite the protestations of Mayor Richard Thomas, who has refused to step away from office.

However, the following day, Tuesday, July 16, Harris was taken into police custody at Mount Vernon Police Headquarters.

Harris was in custody for approximately nine hours before an order came from the District Attorney's Office to release him. Harris was issued a desk appearance ticket charging him with criminal trespassing and he is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, July 18.

The former - and possibly current - police commissioner called it one of the worst days of his life and said it was an embarrassment for himself and for his family. It is unclear who will lead the police department moving forward as Wallace and Thomas continue to butt heads.

On Tuesday, the Westchester District Attorney's Office said in the afternoon that it was not filing charges and recommended to police that they release Harris.

On Monday, July 8, Thomas pleaded guilty to fourth-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false statement for filing. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to resign from office as of Monday, Sept. 30.

Two days later, on Wednesday, July 10, the Mount Vernon City Council unanimously voted on legislation to remove Thomas from office immediately, giving him 24 hours to vacate City Hall. City Council President Andre Wallace was named the interim mayor, while Councilwoman Janice Duarte became the council president.

However, it has remained unclear to city employees and residents alike who is actually in charge of Mount Vernon as the two continue to debate. Thomas has steadfastly insisted he remains the mayor, while Wallace unofficially took over as acting mayor on Friday, July 12.

Harris was the deputy commissioner for parking when Thomas appointed him acting police commissioner in the spring of 2016. He was then named commissioner in January 2018.

In March, Thomas unexpectedly ousted Harris from his position, announcing that he had been “released” as of March 13. He was replaced temporarily by Mount Vernon Lt. Robert Scott. There were no details released about why Harris was let go.

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