MOUNT VERNON, NY – This week, we reposted with permission from the author, a story by George Joseph that originally ran in the Gothamist, titled “The Mount Vernon Police Tapes: In Secretly Recorded Phone Calls, Officer say Innocent People Were Framed” about audiotapes that were leaked alleging police misconduct and corruption within the City of Mount Vernon Police Department, including framing of suspects, beating of residents, and collaboration with drug dealers.
After reading the story State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx/Westchester) sent Black Westchester the following statement:
“I am deeply disturbed by the recent allegations of police misconduct in the City of Mount Vernon, which, if confirmed, may have led to the conviction of innocent New Yorkers. The allegations of police corruption and brutality revealed on the whistleblower tapes are appalling. I am concerned by what appears to be the slow pace of investigation by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office – these allegations should have been promptly and thoroughly addressed when they were first brought to the District Attorney’s attention. I urge the District Attorney to swiftly investigate these allegations, and to review any convictions involving the identified officers. The absence of accountability in the wake of police brutality and misconduct is a detriment to our community and risks the public safety of every Mount Vernon resident. Should it become necessary, I would urge the Attorney General’s office to assist in the investigation.”
We also received an email from Congressman Eliot L. Engel who currently serving as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 16th congressional district that includes the Northern Bronx and the Southern half of Westchester including Mount Vernon, since 2013, emailed us the following statement. on the article and offers his thought on repealing section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights law:
“Reading the Gothamist article titled ‘The Mount Vernon Police Tapes: In Secretly Recorded Phone Calls, Officers Say Innocent People Were Framed’ left me stunned and ashamed. Right now across the country, millions of Americans are protesting police brutality against communities of color, abuse of power, and the forces of systemic racism that remain pervasive in our society. The accusations in the article—which warrant greater investigation—encapsulate all of that and speak to the obvious need for significant reform. We at the federal level are committed to doing our part, but at the state level, I believe State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey’s legislation to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights law is more important than ever and should be passed as soon as possible.
“50-a permits law enforcement officers to refuse disclosure of ‘personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion.’ The law has been used by law enforcement to withhold from the public any record that could be used to evaluate officer performance, including disciplinary records. This lack of transparency clearly allows police misconduct to go unaddressed and insulates law-enforcement from proper accountability. Police officers are sworn to uphold the law, but provisions like 50-a keeps them above it. Section 50-a should be repealed.
“Finally, I think it’s also important to address the whistleblower in the Gothamist story, Officer Murashea Bovell. What Officer Bovell did here was extremely brave, especially when you consider the protective and insular nature of the law-enforcement community. I can tell you firsthand as a key player in the Trump impeachment hearings, and as a leader in investigating the latest improper firings of our Inspectors General, the importance of protecting whistleblowers cannot be overstated. These individuals risk quite a bit in order to uphold the law, and they should be lauded for their courage.”
Bovell said he decided to share his tapes now because he does not believe authorities are willing to root out corruption.
The recordings also raise questions about the response by Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, a former FBI agent and judge who is a Mount Vernon native and began his legal career there.
Bovell turned over a batch of recordings to Scarpino’s office in February of 2019. But nine months later, after some initial signs of interest, a DA investigator confirmed that the agency had not moved forward with the investigation, according to Joseph Murray, Bovell’s attorney.
Scarpino’s office insisted that an investigation is ongoing, but declined to comment on the investigator’s communications to Bovell and his attorney.
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story.