Panel on law enforcement held in Mount Vernon
A panel on law enforcement was held in Mount Vernon Saturday, 24 hours after Yonkers police officer Wayne Simoes was arrested and charged with excessive force for allegedly body-slamming Irma Marquez into the ground in 2007.
But it was not the only incident that compelled the leaders of the National Action Network and the United Black Clergy of Westchester to organize the forum. Hundreds of people who gathered at the Grace Baptist Church talked about what they called a crisis between communities across the county and law enforcement.
The event was originally put together in response to the death of off-duty officer Christopher Ridley this year, who was shot by four county cops.
The panel included police officers and officials from Mount Vernon, White Plains, New Rochelle, Yonkers and the county. Reverend Al Sharpton was also in attendance.
In the course of the panel discussion, Westchester District Attorney Janet Difiore was questioned by state Sen. Ruth Hassel-Thompson (D-Bronx/Mount Vernon) on the need for a special prosecutor who can look impartially at the evidence presented to a grand jury.
Several solutions were proposed to alleviate the growing hostility between the community and law enforcement. The panelists suggested establishing a county-wide citizens' complaint review board; county-wide diversity panels and in-service training for police.
In addition, the panelists asked for a commitment to create legislation for a special statewide prosecutor whenever an incident involves a police officer.
Other issues on the forum?s agenda included how to get more minority police officers into various police departments, and more communication from the District Attorney's Office on grand jury cases.