Dec 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ opens civil rights probe into suburban New York police force

Kristen Clarke, assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke. Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Friday announced it has opened a civil rights investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department in Westchester County, New York, following allegations of discriminatory policing.

Why it matters: This is the Biden administration's fourth DOJ-led civil rights probe into policing practices with previous investigations launched in Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix.

The big picture: The DOJ opened a "pattern or practice" investigation Friday to assess the Mount Vernon Police Department's use of force, strip and body cavity searches and how the department handles evidence.

  • The department will also review the 184-officer force's systems of accountability, including complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition and discipline.
  • DOJ will also reach out to community groups to learn about their experiences with local police.
  • Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah requested in May that the DOJ intervene over what she called "pervasive and persistent" civil rights violations committed by officers, The Washington Post reports.

What they're saying: “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," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

  • “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,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement.
  • “But when officers break the law, they violate their oath and undermine a community’s trust," Williams added.
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