Earlier this year, we wrote an editorial, ‘Real Dialog Is Needed To Discuss Racism In Westchester Police Departments.’ After the resignations of Pelham Manor Police Chiefs that followed an investigation of racist emails within the department, and later spread to Eastchester, it brings up a question that many in the Black community and some law enforcement officials have asked for decades: does racism exist in law enforcement?
In the editorial, BW Publisher writes: If they were told that all Blacks are criminals, Black mothers are lazy and all immigrants are illegal, you can bet that when these officers have interactions with people of color, there is a high probability that they are going to feel this way about them.
Despite the fact that police commissioners from White Plains, Greenburgh, Yonkers and Mount Vernon denied the existence of racism in Westchester County police departments at several police community relations forums we covered, and the fact that New Rochelle Police Chief claiming that racism didn’t exist in NRPD when we asked him after officers pulled out their guns on black boys who were having a snowball fight, several officers throughout Westchester have spoken to BW off the record, and told us there is an “US versus Them” mentality taught in the academy, distorting many officers opinions of the residents of urban neighborhood before they even hit the streets for the first time.
Those are the other municipalities, but there couldn’t possibly be racial bias in a majority black community where the population is 75% black, with an all black government like Mount Vernon, could there? There can be if the police department is made of a majority of white officers, many of whom don’t live within the city limits of Mount Vernon. So do Black Lives really matter, when even the county and state elected officials are black.
A retired sergeant of the MVPD contacted BW after the death of Raynette Turner to address this question.
“When I was looking at this story regarding the young lady who died in the cell block, I first asked myself, ‘what was she arrested for?’ ” the former MVPD Sgt., who asked to remain anonymous, told BW. “When I found out why she was arrested, my next question was “why wasn’t she given a D.A.T.’ She should have gotten a desk appearance ticket and when she went to the hospital the first time, that was a good time to give her a desk appearance ticket. Because me as a supervisor, I got to tie up two police officers at the hospital to watch her. Usually, when you send somebody to the hospital, it’s for a few hours minimum, and logistically I wouldn’t want to take two cops off the street, to watch her for such a minor infraction.”
When discussing racial bias in how blacks and whites are arrested, he recalled several situations when he was on the force.
“Why was she sitting there all weekend for such a minor offense?” he asked. “I used to clash with other supervisors about the way they treated white people that get arrested and black people that get arrested. There have been quite few white people who get arrested for having drugs in the car, and they’ll be given a desk appearance ticket, or given a little bit of bail ,and be gone before the officer’s finished writing the report.”
Now before we go any further, BW is in no way insinuating that Turner might not have still died at home, or in the hospital, were she was given a desk appearance ticket and sent on her way, but simply stating the there is racial bias in arresting practices when it comes to blacks and whites. That is not a Mt. Vernon thing, or a Westchester thing, but a systemic problem nationwide.
There are those who say BW and others should only write positive things about Mount Vernon. To them I say, burying your head in the sand and singing Lovely Day, like Bill Withers, isn’t going to make the systemic racism that infests our law enforcement agencies across the country. And unfortunately for those who insist we sing happy, happy joy, joy songs about the city, yes, that problem afflicts Mt. Vernon too.
Again, so we are clear, this is also not an anti-police piece, or an all police are bad piece, but the system in with the police policies and procedures were created and the systemic racism that is still alive and well in many departments around the county.
If Raynette Turner was given a desk appearance ticket to return to court on Monday, and God forbid she died in home in bed, or at the hospital, we would not be having this conversation. The Attorney General’s office would not be in Mt. Vernon conducting their first investigation after being given special prosecutor duties courtesy of Gov. Cuomo’s executive order. All eyes would not be on Mt Vernon, but like it or not that’s exactly where we are.