WPCNR WESTCHESTER LAW JOURNAL. From the Press Office of the Westchester County District Attorney. April 30, 2021:
Westchester District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah today publicly called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the Mount Vernon Police Department (MVPD) for pervasive and persistent alleged civil rights violations including unlawful strip searches, excessive use of force, and other misconduct.
“The Westchester District Attorney’s Office is engaged in ongoing criminal investigations of certain individual MVPD police officers,” DA Rocah said. “In the course of those investigations, based largely on publicly available information, we have found disturbing allegations of patterns of inappropriate and potentially unlawful conduct by several former and current members of the MVPD. We have provided information that we gathered in this respect to DOJ.”
“While our criminal investigations of individual officers continue, we are requesting that DOJ scrutinize the MVPD’s operations, training and policies to determine whether the MVPD is systematically violating peoples’ civil rights and, if so, to take action to address these matters,” DA Rocah added.
“Since taking office in January, 2020 my mandate has been transformation and accountability across city agencies including the police department. We are working hard to dismantle systemic issues and reform policing to ensure that our community is a safe place for all,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “Our administration referred multiple cases to the District Attorney for review and welcome DA Rocah’s request that DOJ add its resources to identify and address these issues for the benefit of our community.”
DA Rocah said that a DOJ investigation would focus on broader issues of civil rather than criminal law, which do not typically fall under the purview of the DA’s Office. She emphasized that the DA’s Office continues to work with the MVPD to investigate and prosecute crimes in Mount Vernon, and said this ongoing collaboration would continue without disruption during a DOJ investigation.
In March, DA Rocah wrote to MVPD Commissioner of Public Safety Glenn Scott regarding what appeared to be a routine practice of strip searches and body cavity searches of suspects. “My concern arises not from a single, isolated complaint, but from a number of them from 2012-20, making similar allegations of certain police officers illegally or inappropriately conducting these highly invasive searches without the high legal and/or factual predicate thresholds having been satisfied,” DA Rocah stated in the letter.
Since taking office in January, DA Rocah has greatly increased the focus of the Westchester DA’s Office on all forms of public corruption, including police misconduct. “All Westchester residents need to have confidence that they will be treated fairly and equitably. Public trust in our criminal justice system is critical to public safety and we must strengthen that confidence through any tools available to us.”