US Justice Department investigates Mount Vernon police over alleged civil rights violations
The Mount Vernon Police Department is under investigation over alleged civil rights violations, officials say.
The U.S. Justice Department is opening an investigation that will look into alleged violations involving unlawful strip searches, excessive use of force and whether the department singled out Black residents for such abuse.
Years of civilian complaints and corruption sparked the investigation. Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah called on the Justice Department to investigate last April.
The Justice Department says Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and the city's police commissioner have already pledged their cooperation. Patterson-Howard says that the issue has been a failure of leadership for a long time now - but it's a failure she's committed to changing.
She also says she acknowledges the department is understaffed, underpaid and has been flawed as a result - but is committed to working with the DOJ.
Police Commissioner Glenn Scott says he's reviewed and changed police protocols since taking over two years ago - optimistic about investigators' findings.
The investigation will include speaking to residents, looking at body cam footage and internal police records.
Officials will eventually release a public report on their findings, though it's unclear how long the investigation might take.
"We'll assess whether the Mount Vernon Police Department engages in discriminatory conduct; singling out Black residents for mistreatment," says Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.