- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2021

The Justice Department on Friday announced it is launching an investigation into allegations of excessive force and mishandling of evidence at the Mount Vernon, New York, police department.

It is Attorney General Merrick Garland’s fourth “pattern-or-practice” probe into a police agency since taking office in January. He is also currently investigating departments in Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix.

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, said Friday that officials have received information that Mount Vernon police officers have repeatedly used excessive force against minors and people who are handcuffed.

“In some cases, the injuries these individuals suffered were severe,” Ms. Clarke said. “We’ve also received reports that officers target Black residents for abuse and excessive force, including information suggesting that supervisors teach this targeting to their subordinates.”

Officers have also been accused of “routinely” conducting searches without proper legal basis, including strip searches and physical body cavity searches. A number of complainants have also raised concerns over how police handle evidence.

Ms. Clarke said investigators will review incident reports, body-worn camera footage, as well as the police agency’s policies, training materials and supervision records.

Federal officials will also conduct meetings with officers and ask community members about their experiences with the police department.

If the allegations are true, the Justice Department will issue a report and “aim to work cooperatively with the city” on how to address the problems.

“If an appropriate remedy cannot be achieved through agreement, the attorney general is authorized to bring litigation to secure an appropriate injunctive remedy,” she said.

The Washington Times sent a request for comment on Friday to the Mount Vernon Police Department and Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, a Democrat.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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