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, announced today that the United States has entered into an agreement with THE CITY OF YONKERS (the “City”) and THE CITY OF YONKERS POLICE DEPARTMENT (“YPD”), which is the product of the United States’ comprehensive investigation of YPD police practices and furthers the parties’ commitment to constitutional policing.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “This agreement ensures that the Yonkers Police Department polices in a way that keeps its citizens safe, while protecting their constitutional rights. 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.”
Head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta said: “This agreement will ensure that the Yonkers Police Department continues to advance constitutional, effective and community-oriented policing. 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.”
The agreement is the result of the United States’ comprehensive investigation of YPD police practices that began in August 2007 under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. In June 2009, the United States sent the City a technical assistance letter that identified necessary reforms to YPD practices and policies in the areas of use of force, citizen complaints, investigations, supervisory oversight, and training. After receiving the United States’ technical assistance letter, the City and YPD made substantial changes to its policies and procedures. The agreement implements and further improves those policies and procedures and addresses the United States’ remaining concerns. Under the agreement, the YPD will, among other things:
- Maintain and implement clear use-of-force policies that require officers to use only that force which is reasonable in light of the resistance encountered and to de-escalate force immediately as resistance decreases, and provide that the use of unreasonable force may subject officers to discipline, possible criminal prosecution, and/or civil liability.
- 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, which permit investigatory stops and detentions only where the officer has the reasonable suspicion, under the totality of the circumstances, that criminal activity or a violation of law has been or is about to be committed.
- 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. The system shall require recording of, among other things, the officer’s name and badge number; the subject’s apparent race, ethnicity, gender and age; and the reason for the stop, including a description of the facts creating reasonable suspicion.
- 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, including by developing a survey to measure officer outreach to a cross-section of community members in each precinct, with an emphasis on community partnerships and problem-solving strategies that build mutual respect and trusting relationships with community stakeholders.
- Ensure that officers and supervisors receive appropriate levels of training in constitutional policing.
The agreement also provides that consultants retained by the United States will conduct compliance reviews to ensure that YPD has implemented the measures required by the agreement, and issue public reports of those compliance reviews.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit, with the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Assistant United States Attorney Tomoko Onozawa is in charge of the case.