Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday that it would open a civil rights investigation of a police department in a suburb of New York City.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division announced that the “pattern-or-practice” investigation would evaluate allegations regarding the Mount Vernon Police Department’s use of force and searches.

“Police officers have hard jobs, and so many do their job honorably, legally, and with distinction, respecting the rights of the citizens they have vowed to protect,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District. “But when officers break the law, they violate their oath and undermine a community’s trust.”

The effort is the Biden administration’s fourth federal civil rights survey of a local police department this year.

The department under the Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandThe Memo: Trump’s Justice Sees to Limit Abortion House Progress Calls Garland to Intervene in Former Environmental Lawyer Steven Donziger’s Case Garland Orders DOJ to Prioritize Violence on Planes MORE and Kristen ClarkeKristen ClarkeDOJ settles discrimination claim against Gap Hillicon Valley – Ministry of Justice accepts Uber Justice sues Uber for “waiting time” fees MORE, the Assistant Attorney General, Head of the Civil Rights Division, has renewed its efforts to crack down on civil rights issues related to law enforcement after the pattern-or-practice investigations fell out of favor with the previous administration.

Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah asked federal authorities to investigate Mount Vernon police earlier this year after announcing investigations into individual officers who “found disturbing allegations of patterns of inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior” involving searches, excessive use of power and other assertions.

Rocah welcomed the DOJ’s announcement Friday.

“I commend the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York for dedicating significant federal resources to vigorously defending civil rights laws through a comprehensive investigation into possible violations of civil liberties by the Mount Vernon Police Department,” Rocah said in a statement. “Shortly after I joined, I referred certain practices from the MVPD to the DOJ. Today’s announcement shows that parallel parts of the justice system work to help create a safe environment for our society.”

Mount Vernon city officials were not immediately able to comment when contacted by The Hill.

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