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U.S. Attorney Reaches Agreement With City Of Yonkers To Enhance Police

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. Photo Credit: U.S. Justice Department

YONKERS, N.Y. -- The U.S. Department of Justice and Yonkers have reached an agreement officials hope will curb incidents of excessive force by the city's police department.

A case dating to 2007 investigated the practices of the Yonkers Police Department and in June 2009 determined that reforms were necessary in the areas of use of force, citizen complaints, investigations, supervisory oversight and training.

The announcement came from Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Vanita Gupta, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights for the Department of Justice.

Department training and reforms will cost the city approximately $1 million.

“This agreement ensures that the Yonkers Police Department polices in a way that keeps its citizens safe, while protecting their constitutional rights," Bharara said. "The measures put in place with this agreement, including clear and reasonable use-of-force policies and guidance on how to properly evaluate and respond to use-of-force incidents, will make Yonkers safer for citizens and police alike. We thank the Yonkers Police Department and the City of Yonkers for cooperating with our investigation, and for joining our effort to ensure that the Yonkers Police Department protects its citizens not only from physical harm, but also from violations of their constitutional rights.”

A 2009 technical assistance letter sent to YPD identified necessary reforms in the areas of,

  • use of force,
  • citizen complaints,
  • investigations,
  • supervisory oversight,
  • training.

“This agreement will ensure that the Yonkers Police Department continues to advance constitutional, effective and community-oriented policing," Gupta said. "Through clear policy guidance, data analysis and accountability systems, we believe these reforms will make the entire community safer and strengthen public trust in the police.”

Under the agreement, the YPD will, among other things:

  • Maintain and implement clear use-of-force policies
  • Thoroughly and timely evaluate, document, and review use-of-force incidents, arrests and citizen complaints of officer misconduct.
  • Maintain and implement clear policies on investigatory stops and detentions
  • Develop a system to collect data on all investigatory stops and searches, except stops purely for traffic enforcement, whether or not they result in an arrest or issuance of a citation.
  • Permit onlookers or bystanders to witness, observe, record, and/or comment on officer conduct, including stops, detentions, searches, arrests, or uses of force, with some limitations.
  • Continue to develop and implement a computerized risk management system to identify and respond to potentially problematic incidents, officers, units, training, and tactics.
  • Continue to maintain and build community relationships and engage constructively with the community to ensure collaborative problem-solving efforts and to increase community confidence in the department..
  • Ensure that officers and supervisors receive appropriate levels of training in constitutional policing.

Compliance reviews will be conducted by U.S. consultants to ensure that YPD has implemented the measures required by the agreement.

This case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Tomoko Onozawa of the Office’s Civil Rights Unit and the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

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