Federal prosecutors on Friday announced a civil rights probe into a suburban New York City police department accused of using excessive force and conducting illegal strip searches.
The US Department of Justice will review whether the Mount Vernon Police Department has engaged in “a discriminatory policing model or practice,” authorities said.
The review will include an assessment of the department’s use of force, strip searches and body searches and how officers handle evidence.
The Justice Department this year announced similar inquiries into police forces in Minneapolis, after the death of George Floyd, and in Louisville, Kentucky, after the death of Breonna Taylor. He also launched a type or training investigation of the Phoenix Police Department.
“Police officers have tough jobs, and many do their jobs honorably, legally and with distinction,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement Friday. “But when the police break the law, they break their oath and undermine the trust of a community.
The announcement came seven months after Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the small North Bronx Police Department “systematically violates peoples’ civil rights.” She cited a series of unwarranted strip searches and body searches and “potentially unlawful conduct of several former and current” Mount Vernon police officers.
A former officer, James Ready, pleaded guilty this summer to assaulting a handcuffed and shackled man in a hospital – a body slam caught on surveillance video. The officer also admitted to tampering with records and lying about the 2019 attack in an attempt to cover it up.
Ready’s plea deal requires him to be put on probation. Rocah’s office recently denied a public record for the Associated Press surveillance footage, saying the case remains open.
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