Federal investigators have launched a probe into a Hudson Valley police department to determine whether or not officers engaged in a pattern of discriminatory policing.
US Attorney Damian Williams announced that in Westchester, the Justice Department has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department.
According to Williams, the investigation will assess the department’s use of force, strip and body cavity searches, and how it handles evidence.
The investigation will include a comprehensive review of Mount Vernon Police Department’s systems of accountability, including complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.
Williams said that his office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will also be reaching out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the Mount Vernon Police Department.
“Police officers have tough jobs, and so many do their work honorably, lawfully, and with distinction, respecting the rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect,” Williams said. “But when officers break the law, they violate their oath and undermine a community’s trust.”
City officials in Mount Vernon were notified of the investigation on Friday, Dec. 3.
“An effective and accountable police department is a hallmark of a healthy and well-functioning democracy,” Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said.
“The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that law enforcement agencies across our country use their authority in a manner that is constitutional, transparent, and free from discrimination.”
According to Williams, “the investigation is being conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law.”
Anyone who has information relevant to the investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department has been asked to contact the Department of Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call (866) 985-1378.
"I commend the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York for dedicating substantial federal resources to vigorously defend the civil rights laws through a comprehensive investigation of possible violations of civil liberties by the Mount Vernon Police Department. Shortly after taking office, Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah said in a statement following the announcement.
"I referred certain practices of the MVPD to DOJ. Today’s announcement demonstrates that parallel parts of the justice system operate to help create a safe environment for our communities," she said. "Out of respect for the federal investigation, my office will have no further comment at this time."
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