Federal prosecutors opened a civil rights investigation into whether the Mount Vernon Police Department engaged in a pattern of unlawful policing, according to a New York Times report released today.
Investigators are looking into whether officers employed by the department regularly use excessive force, conduct unlawful strip and body-cavity searches during arrests and falsify evidence, officials said.
In addition, the federal inquiry will focus on whether officers targeted Black residents in Mount Vernon. Roughly 60 percent of Mount Vernon residents are Black.
Westchester County district attorney Mimi E. Rocah urged the Justice Department to investigate the Mount Vernon police for “pervasive and persistent alleged civil rights violations” in April.
At that time, the DA’s office began criminal investigations into individual officers, but Rocah said that the department’s operations, training practices and policies also needed to be examined separately to determine whether the police were “systemically violating peoples’ civil rights.”
In March, Rocah sent a letter to Glenn Scott, the police commissioner, expressing her concerns that some officers may have been performing illegal searches as a “matter of routine procedure.” Rocah said her office received complaints dating back to 2012.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates that parallel parts of the justice system operate to help create a safe environment for our communities,” Rocah said in a statement on Friday.
The investigation will be conducted by Southern District prosecutors and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It marks the fourth inquiry the Biden has opened since April involving police departments.