United States Attorney Damian Williams Announces Investigation Of The Mount Vernon Police Department

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5 mins read
FILE PHOTO: The DOJ logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), along with Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, announced today that the Justice Department has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department (MVPD).  The investigation will assess whether MVPD engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.  The investigation will also assess MVPD’s use of force, strip and body cavity searches, and how it handles evidence.  As part of the investigation, SDNY and the Civil Rights Division will conduct a comprehensive review of MVPD’s systems of accountability, including complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.  SDNY and the Civil Rights Division will also reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the MVPD.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “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.  But when officers break the law, they violate their oath and undermine a community’s trust.  We ask anyone who has information relevant to the investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department to contact the Department of Justice via email at community.mvpd@usdoj.gov or to call (866) 985-1378.”

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Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said: “An effective and accountable police department is a hallmark of a healthy and well-functioning democracy.  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.”

This morning, SDNY and Civil Rights Division officials informed Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, MVPD Chief Marcel Olifiers, City Council President Marcus A. Griffith, Commissioner of Public Safety Glenn Scott, and Corporation Counsel Brian Johnson of the investigation.

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.  The Act allows the Department of Justice to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation.  SDNY and the Civil Rights Division will be assessing law enforcement practices under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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The Civil Rights Unit in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, in Washington, D.C., are jointly conducting this investigation.  Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Department of Justice via email at community.mvpd@usdoj.gov or by phone at (866) 985-1378.  Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal, available at civilrights.justice.gov.

Additional information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is available on its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny.  Additional information about the Civil Rights Division and the Division’s Police Reform Work is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt and at https://www.justice.gov/crt/file/922421/download

Click here for information on the investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department

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