U.S. government opens civil rights probe into police in New York suburb

FILE PHOTO: Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke speaks during a news conference where U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (not pictured) announced that the Justice Department will file a lawsuit challenging a Georgia election law that imposes new limits on voting, at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Justice Department has launched a civil rights inquiry into police practices in yet another U.S. city, investigating possible systemic abuses in the New York suburb of Mount Vernon after receiving tips accusing officers of using excessive force and conducting illegal searches, officials said on Friday.

The department’s Civil Rights Division since President Joe Biden took office in January also has launched investigations into police practices in Minneapolis, Phoenix and Louisville, Kentucky, following protests in many U.S. cities last year against racism and police brutality.

Kristen Clarke, assistant U.S. attorney general for the civil rights division, and Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney Damian Williams announced the investigation into possible abuses by the city of Mount Vernon, which has a population of roughly 70,000, and its police department.

Clarke said investigators will look at evidence suggesting that Black residents are targeted for “abuse and excessive force,” and that police supervisors may be teaching this targeting.

The inquiry, she said, was prompted by tips and publicly available information.

“We have received information about the repeated use of excessive force, often against individuals who are handcuffed,” Clarke said. “Similarly, reports indicate that officers routinely conducted searches without sufficient legal basis, including strip searches.”

A spokesperson for Mount Vernon said the city was preparing to issue a statement and hold a news conference on the matter.

Biden has made the issue of racial justice a priority in the aftermath of the May 2020 police killing of a Black man named George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer who was later convicted of murder.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)

 

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