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Crime & Violence Rises, Police Overworked & Underpaid, Bail Reform Needs To Be Reformed, What Is The Plan For The City Of Mount Vernon?

Residents Are Calling For City Leaders and the Police Administration For Some Real Public Safety while Police Want A Contract and A Raise

After the summary execution of George Floyd, millions of people across the nation protested and rallied against police brutality and racial injustice. Floyd’s death followed a long history of police violence against Black people and was heavily covered in the national media along with Blacks dying at the hand of the police. In response we got Cashless Bail – the bail reform that now needs to be reformed – and a lot of talk about police spending outpacing investments in Health and Human Services.

While there was a need to address this national epidemic and I wholeheartedly agree we need more investments in Health and Human Services, it is equally important to address what we are facing locally. In the city of Mount Vernon, you have an underpaid and overworked police department – who are the lowest paid police department in the 43 municipalities of Westchester County – the public is not feeling safe as crime rises in Mount Vernon, much like it is nationally.

Mount Vernon Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Nicholas Mastrogiorgio has been very vocal on social media on the need for a raise and the underfunding on the Mount Vernon Police Department, especially after what has been described by many as a melee at the Mayor’s Fall Festival at Hartley Park.

Soooooo…..

Once again, poor planning by the City Leaders and the Police Administration turns what should have been a beautiful day into chaos and the Public was put at great risk.

At the Mayor’s Fall Festival at Hartley Park hundreds of people came out to enjoy a beautiful day. With all those people visiting Hartley Park you would think that the Mayor would have authorized Overtime for the Police Department to have Officers man the event and PROTECT THE PUBLIC, but sadly this was not the case.

Shortly after 7pm, multiple fights broke out between youths all throughout the park. The scene was described to be by many of the people there as pure mayhem. Officers on Patrol had to be redirected from their normal Patrol duties to break up the many fights at the park.

When Officers responded the Mayor began barking orders at the Officers and pointing out kids for the Officers to grab and search without any clear explanation as to why. Then someone from the Mayor’s staff handed one of the Officers a knife and told the Officer that they picked the knife up off the ground after it was dropped by a girl who was fighting another girl.

Thank God we didn’t have another tragic injury or death because the city failed to provide adequate Police presence for a city held event. When private entities hold events of this size in the city, they are REQUIRED to pay for the Police to be hired to staff the event, but the city themselves failed to hire extra cops and left the public at risk. Unbelievable.

To make matters worse, the event had to be shut down a little early as a result of this massive fight in the park. As the cops that rushed to the park to break up the fight were there making sure that everyone left the park peacefully, the Mayor then ordered the Officers to leave the park because she “didn’t like the optics”.

You can’t make this shit up, this is totally disgraceful, and the city should be ashamed. You would think the city would have learned a valuable lesson about providing an adequate level of Public Safety at City events in light of past tragedies, but apparently, they haven’t learned a thing.

On another note, Firemen were paid overtime to participate in the festival, yet cops weren’t offered overtime to protect the public or to participate at the event.

I guess the Mayor cares more about the OPTICS during campaign season than she does about Public Safety.

How much clearer can it be that our Mayor can’t stand the Police!!!

This is far from the first time the outspoken PBA President has criticized Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard’s commitment to her police department, all you have to do is scroll down his Facebook page. As with his previous post, there are many comments, some in support of the mayor and many criticizing her and questioning her commitment for public safety to properly protect the residents of Mount Vernon. There are even calls to bring back former Mayor Richard Thomas who pled guilty to federal corruption charges and was unable to fill his full term.

How bad does it have to be for residents to say bring back the previous mayor that some of those same people said had to go. Whether we blame cashless bail and bail reform, lack of resources or youth programs or a national spike in violence, residents of Mount Vernon just want to know their leaders have their safety in mind. Much like President Joe Biden, Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard – who was the unofficial chief of staff in the Thomas Administration – told Mount Vernon residents to vote for her for mayor because she would bring us back to some sort of normalcy. Public safety was a big part of her campaign in the 2019 mayoral campaign as she criticized previous administrations.

Now while a lot of people are chalking the PBA Pres statements and constant critique of the mayor, nothing more than a tactic to get a contract and raise for his membership, no matter what you may feel about the messenger we cannot dismiss the message. Crime and violence are at an all-time high that some over 40 are saying 2022 may be as bad as the crack era of the mid 80’s to early 90’s. While that may be an exaggeration, Houston or should I say Patterson-Howard we have a problem.

Black Westchester often accused of making Mount Vernon look bad by talking about what’s wrong with that city has sat back and hasn’t addressed every incident of violence, every shooting but instead attended all the meeting of groups who say they wanted to address the problem and had long conversations with our mayor. My last conversation after the two shooting incidents on Union Avenue while Congressmen Jamaal Bowman and Hakeen Jeffries were speaking blocks away at Greater Centennial AME Zion Church, I asked what is the plan? Damon and I have had countless conversation with Police Commissioner Glen Scott about public safety in Mount Vernon.

Even parents speaking at a school board meeting in April were sharing they are not sure they want their child to return to the high school until the school can prove it can keep their children safe following the death of Kayla Green that rocked the city to its core (see video below).

Everyone wanted to have meeting about what needs to be done and shortly afterwards we went back to business as usual. leading up to the Mayor’s Fall Festival at Hartley Park, where we are told by some police officers it wasn’t just the youth fighting but some of their parents fighting as well.

I asked our mayor what is the plan? Offering to do whatever we could in support but asking what is the plan? No matter what other extenuating circumstances exists, it’s on the City Leaders and the Police Administration to come up with and implement a plan. As I am writing this and football in on in the background and the NBA season just started, you hear about how the referees are calling the game. no matter how unfair we the fans, or the players feel the calls are, it’s up to the coaching staff to make the adjustment to how the game is being called and implement a plan for the players to carry out.

Why am I talking about sports, I use this analogy because in our last conversation the mayor discussed the cashless bail and not being able to hold people overnight in jail and the spike in violence nationwide. I agree that we need a reform to the much-needed bail reform that our communities called for, but okay that’s what the legislators passed. What is the adjustment to the way the game is being called? You have a lot of good officers being burned out and mass exoduses to police departments who pay more but have less crime.

It is true Mount Vernon Police Department is the lowest paid, most overworked department in the county and it’s also true the City of Mount Vernon has no money. So, what is the answer? It’s true no one elected official can clean up years of dysfunction and crime overnight, but at this time, crime and violence are on the rise, gunshots are ringing out more and more and it ain’t safe in these streets and something needs to be done and done now before it gets worst.

I’m not even here to put all the blame on Mayor SPH or agree that bringing back Richard Thomas is the answer, but one thing is for certain something needs to be done and we are looking for our mayor, city elected officials and police administration to figure it out. It doesn’t even matter to most how we got here and who is to blame, we just want to be safe in our own city and those who we elected and who signed up for the job, we are asking that you do it.

A lot of people are listening and hearing the PBA President, I seen and witnessed residents tell police officers they stand with them, that they agree the police need a contract and to be paid a more competitive wage. We also do not see any of our leaders proving the PBA Pres wrong. I agree with the PBA Pres on one thing he wrote, “Thank God we didn’t have another tragic injury or death…” and would like to add we cannot wait until the next tragic injury or death to put a plan in motion. I have asked our mayor and police commissioner privately and now I ask publicly, what’s the plan.

Jesse Van Lew of Save Mount Vernon has also been critical of city leaders for not putting out a plan to help curb our Gun violence in Mt. Vernon He has been calling for the “so-called shooters and tuff guys to put the guns down.” He has been very vocal and asking who’s in Charge? Crime and violence are not new to Mount Vernon, but they are currently at an all-time high.

The residents of Mount Vernon are not feeling safe from our city leaders and Commissioner of Public Safety, we hear you when you say you are trying but we need you to do more, much more!

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About AJ Woodson (2369 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.

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