The Hezitorial Investigation
The political wind have shifted; the pendulum has veered toward a resurgent conservative demeanor given expression by the recently elected and duly sworn President Donald J. Trump. Former President Barack Obama, having served the maximum limit of two terms in office is no longer POTUS. Obama’s political foray has no doubt trickled down to the City of Yonkers (CoY), a city embroiled in much internal strife and controversy, much that has been and continues to be defined as real, underhanded, dirty misconduct across a broad spectrum of concerns.
The early days of Prohibition when illegal alcohol was shipped by way of underground tunnels to and from Yonkers, most recently rediscovered and unearthed in the daylighting of the Yonkers Waterfront, gave rise to Yonkers fair share of “wise guys”, from the predominately “white” neighborhoods now recognized as Yonkers Eastside. It is the very section that Federal District Judge, Southern District of New York Judge Leonard B. Sand’s decisions would come to change the area’s demographics so as to open a porthole from segregation to coerce a powerless citizenry to be moved about like pawns on political chessboard. The only constant that remained was the nasty and demeaning attitude that has since become ingrained by deep rooted racial overtones bequeathed from one generation to the next, fueling a deep-rooted air that Yonkers politicians and those connected to them were and to this day remain above the law.
Understanding CoY’s demeanor elucidates why Yonkers has been and continues to be a failed and divided city situated across the northern most borough of New York City, The Borough of the Bronx. Further understanding why there is so much turbulence and anxiety in a city where community activists are bought off with jobs, where there is no Hispanic leadership or power, and where unions have been alienated and relegated into a schism dividing the “haves” from the “have nots”. The rest of this sad city is either too scared to speak in opposition to the powers that be or worry that their family and friends may lose their employ and position by seemingly every administration since Prohibition known to exact retribution when espousing “truth to power”! No matter the prism engaged in reflecting over the faux finery of Yonkers window dressing, no one can attest to it remaining unsoiled by those elected to office. So skewed is CoY’s underhanded attitude among Yonkers’ so-called “elite”, that the dysfunction has now infested the discourse, or more appropriately, the disrespectful discourse among Yonkersites.
The recently reported years-long investigation into the Yonkers Police Department (YPD) as unfathomably as it may seem, did not let the City of Yonkers off the hook yet. In fact, other than the signed agreement, it is likely that most Yonkers employees and its citizenry have not even heard, much less read about or even read the agreement. What has been divulged is a sanitized, sugar coated synopsis printed by the three page Journal “Noise” or what might be perceived as a “Everything is sweet in Yonkers” as expressed in Yonkers Rising. Could it be that no one was reporting on the internally reported misconduct that questioned the Yonkers Police Department about YPD Officers allegedly engaged in searches devoid of warrants, committing perjury to get into private homes, conducting unauthorized investigations against police personnel that Yonkers Police Benevolent (PBA) President Keith Olson and his close associates perceived as possible whistle blowers regarding police conduct. In addition to Police Officers being verbally and physically attacked on and off duty, a small band of supervisors have seemingly ignored the real facts, and in some instances distorted details of incidents at the urging of the Yonkers Police Department’s Yonkers Police Benevolent Association and the Captains, Lieutenants, and Sergeants Association (CLSA). If that was not enough, YPD personnel were specifically targeted by Yonkers PBA President Olson which resulted in a “kangaroo styled court where 100-year dusty railroad union by-laws were used to remove another member from the union.” For a guy that stands up at union meetings and brags about his handling of Rui Florim, the Department of Justice (DoJ) conclusions were no doubt necessary. Protecting free speech for all Americans is guaranteed under the First Amendment. No Yonkers citizen or YPD employee should be subject to to misconduct at the hands of Olson and/or others. It is presently almost 90 days since Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, and Yonkers Corporation Counsel Michael Curti, signed the aforementioned contract with the DoJ, the Yonkers Tribune questions whether the YPD has yet complied with Page 13, Line 67 of the agreement, whereby it is stipulated that the City of Yonkers conspicuously post a placard in the public entranceway to the Cacace Justice Center building instructing citizens on how to file a complaint of police misconduct. Ironically, it is to be placed in the ground floor vicinity of the Yonkers PBA Office.
At the tail end of 2016, a year filled with police shootings, riots and police officers gunned down across America one has to ponder why. Were there any internal flags that went up? The DoJ put out three end -of- year findings and signed agreements, which included the City of Yonkers Police Department. Yonkers has seemingly muffled and downplayed the reports’ findings by creating ambiguous statements given expression by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano who had indeed inscribed his signature to the document noted herein. The Journal “Mews” reported on what was gingerly released. Perhaps that the the rationale for why there is a two-year “string” attached to the agreement, hyperlinked to this Blue Truth Hezitorial for all Yonkers employees and residents alike to decipher its directives and demands for themselves. Sources continue to advise most YPD members are left in the dark about the financial union standings of the Yonkers PBA, or the Yonkers PBA. It seems transparency is causing the union leadership to gag especially because PBA President Olson drives around in a vehicle that is a perk so that he can get from different ale houses in and around CoY and sometimes even beyond. One must presume that leadership, standards, and protocol emanate from the top. The recognizable swagger of the Yonkers PBA suggests the Yonkers PBA leadership has historically given life to nothing more than unadulterated misconduct. There is no doubt that Keith Olson should not be representing City of Yonkers, its residents, and certainly not Yonkers Police Officers. Insiders advise that any endorsement gained from his office is nothing more than a “crap shoot” and prone to its frailty.
The Chicago Police Department, Baltimore Police Department, and Ferguson Police Department took the brunt of the DoJ’s scathing findings over findings of internal procedures, incidents, and actions of these specific police departments. perhaps these scathing reports should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the politicians running these specific cities. After all, the mayors of these cities have taken the same Constitutional oath as the Police Officers they hired, and designated the commissioners to oversee those Police Officers. However ambiguous it sounds, these leaders have taken an oath to ensure that all its citizens and employees are protected under the Constitution of the United States. When unscrupulous politicians interfere, taint or obstruct these rights, and pure mayhem and distrust kindles more internal misconduct spills over to all residents. Sources with knowledge advise that under the present leadership of the Yonkers PBA President Keith Olson there were clear and present internal signals suggest CoY has turned a blind eye. Those alleged signals may have also spread unto civilians like the Tenor Case, the allegations of sexual abuse, the warrantless searches, the consistent undocumented vehicle stops where entire vehicles are allegedly searched for not signaling. Another red flag is the taking of personal property with the threat of arrest. That is clearly why a certain segment of the community do not trust the police.
The DoJ findings for each of these departments were clear cut, and most of those findings were based on information provided by law enforcement officers from the various department and its citizens. Yonkers’ agreement seems to be more ambiguous and elusive, as would be expected, and has yet to be implemented. At issue is why! The DoJ investigation into the YPD seems to have set in motion the close scrutiny of its personnel and policy and procedures. In actuality, it was former Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett who was well aware of “the Yonkers Way”. It was he who sought to put in motion the changes the DoJ has requested; issues such as the names of officers being visibly displayed on their person, and a central records management system. Still Hartnett fell short of his goals because of political intrusion and fabricated union push back. It seems in Yonkers, union cash goes a long way and may even get someone a nice transfer, city paid vehicle, insurance, and gasoline, and even a promotion to boot.
The DoJ report on the Chicago Police Department cited a lack of training, racial profiling, excessive force, a lack of internal investigations with a very low ratio of findings and overtones of political and supervisory interference which included the appearance of union deception and defiance over specific and particular incidents. The report went on to cite a lack of community outreach effort, no community programs, and yet tallying everything to make it seem that standards and protocol were followed so as to mislead the public on what was really happening. DoJ findings of other police departments are out there for those desiring to know and learn more in depth. It is most ironic that the DoJ did not provide any details of their findings, interviews, or a line-by-line breakdown of their very lengthy investigations; or cite the long existing problems of the Yonkers Police Department and the community-at-large. Instead the DoJ appeared to sense that something did not pass the smell test test and decided to keep the oven on deciding to enter into a time agreement/contract to get things more in line to protect the citizenry and employees alike.
In reading the DoJ agreement, the DoJ seemed to have reserved the right to review CoY and the YPD’s implementation. On page 21, number 111, the DoJ reserved the right to have reasonable access to all YPD employees. Number 112 on the same page states the DoJ and any of their consultants shall have access to all YPD documents, such as arrest reports, and search warrants. It is presumed that there will be no more verbal and physical attacks on YPD members by union officials and for now, with the fresh smell of the DoJ and the City’s agreement, its employees and its citizens can be protected by their Constitutional Rights. Yonkers has a lot of work to do, especially as it pertains to Letter E, on page 12, number 65 of the DoJ agreement with the city. For now, Yonkers and the YPD have much to complete to get its house in order. For the past several years there have been some real allegations of police misconduct and reports stemming from PBA President Olson and members of the PBA Trustee Board of Directors. Perhaps that is why the DoJ did not show all its cards and just entered into a time RIDDEN agreement that has already started ticking. Yonkers seems to have its own rules, and the “Yonkers Way” is not what the Constitution states. After all, if police misconduct is used against other employees, then each and every citizen should be most concerned.
Perhaps New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is on to something when he says there should be a consolidation of services. perhaps police departments should have a uniformed system of standards, with checks and balances stemming from the State Attorney’s Office. As for the YPD, they best take a closer look look at the conduct and actions of the Yonkers PBA, and its union leader. Another issue noticed and noted by the DoJ is its mention that Internal Affairs cannot list investigations as “open” for years. Those days are history. The new agreements require Internals Affairs are limited to conclude investigations by a specific time frame. The DoJ now awaits as it gathers information and data directly from the community; no longer from the breakfast crew.
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Editor-at-Large Note: This telling is a distillation of numerous sources in the know who are credible and known to the Editor-at-Large.
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Justice Department Reaches Agreement with City of Yonkers, New York, to Enhance Police Department Policies and Procedures
NEW YORK, NY — November 14, 2016 — The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with the city of Yonkers, New York, and the Yonkers Police Department (YPD) to resolve the department’s investigation of YPD and ensure constitutional policing.
The agreement is the result of the department’s investigation of YPD 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, civilian complaints, investigations, supervisory oversight and training. After receiving the department’s technical assistance letter, the city and YPD made substantial changes to its policies and procedures. This agreement implements and further improves those policies and procedures and addresses the department’s remaining concerns.
“This agreement will ensure that the Yonkers Police Department continues to advance constitutional, effective and community-oriented policing,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “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.”
“This agreement ensures that the Yonkers Police Department polices in a way that keeps its citizens safe, while protecting their constitutional rights,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York. “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.”
The agreement is carefully tailored to address the department’s remaining concerns while also taking into account and seeking to build upon the positive reforms YPD has already made following the department’s investigation. Under the agreement, the YPD will, among other things:
• maintain and implement clear policies to avoid using excessive and unreasonable force and timely document and review uses of force;
• maintain and implement clear and appropriate policies on investigatory stops and detentions, as well as searches and arrests;
• 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, consistent with applicable law and best practices;
• ensure the transparency and accessibility of the misconduct complaint process and investigate all misconduct complaints fully and fairly;
• 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;
develop 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; and
ensure that officers and supervisors receive appropriate levels of training in constitutional policing.
The agreement also provides that consultants retained by the department 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 Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.
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Read the FULL Yonkers Police Department Agreement herein.