Mount Vernon Police Department under federal investigation for discriminatory practices

Northern Suburbs
Mount Vernon police vehicles in the Bronx

Mount Vernon police vehicles on the scene of a shooting in the Bronx.

A federal investigation will determine whether or not one New York police department “engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing,” according to a release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department will also assess the department’s use of force, strip and body cavity searches and evidence handling. Damian Williams, the United States District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, announced the probe Friday.

As part of the investigation, SDNY and the Civil Rights Division will review the MVPD’s accountability systems, including investigation and discipline. Community members and groups will be asked to share any experiences they’ve had with the MVPD, according to the release.

“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,” Williams said. “But when officers break the law, they violate their oath and undermine a community’s trust.”

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah first asked federal investigators to look into the department in August.

In her request, Rocah cited “potentially unlawful conduct by several former and current” officers.

Rocah raised concerns earlier this year about a pattern of unjustified strip searches and body cavity searches.

“I commend the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York for dedicating substantial federal resources to vigorously defend the civil rights laws through a comprehensive investigation of possible violations of civil liberties by the Mount Vernon Police Department,” Rocah said in a statement Friday. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that parallel parts of the justice system operate to help create a safe environment for our communities.”

Officials in Mount Vernon — including Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and MVPD Chief Marcel Olifiers — were notified of the investigation.

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