May 30, 2023
BW - Mount Vernon

Mass Exodus – Badge Drain In Mount Vernon Police Department by PBA President Lt. Nicholas Mastrogiorgio 

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In a New York Times article from February of 2001 about “Badge Drain” in the White Plains Police Department, The New York Times writes about the EXODUS of Police Officers from White Plains to other jobs in the county. In fact, the White Plains PBA at the time called the department a training ground for the rest of the county.

The article cites a terrible work schedule, low pay, and abysmal working conditions as the reason why White Plains Officers were leaving at an alarming rate. It even mentions how in one year half of the Officers that left were black and brown Officers, 20 years before the Police Reform act that Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard blames for the departure of our black and brown officers in Mount Vernon over the course of her administration.

What I find truly amazing about the article is the numbers they reference in terms of how many Officers transferred to other departments. At the time of the article White Plains was about 200 Officer department and they had lost 72 Officers in the last 12 years and 10 in the one year prior to when the article was written. Their Police Commissioner dismissed the departments low morale and placed blame on the union according to the article. Does this sound familiar? The correlation between White Plains in 2001 and Mount Vernon in 2023 is astounding until you look at the numbers.

The New York Times thought that the situation was so bad they wrote an article about the situation and how much money White plains was losing or wasting because of this issue and how it was affecting the city of White Plains. The administration at the time, both the Mayor and the Police Commissioner of White Plains seemed to just ignore the issues and they refused to negotiate with the White Plains PBA. They shrugged it off as if the PBA was fabricating the issue or blowing it out of proportion.  As I read this article, I can’t help but think I’m in a twilight zone episode, that’s how similar the situations seem to be.

But that is where the similarities end. Here is the crazy part, White plains at the time wasn’t the lowest paid and was only a few thousand dollars behind other departments that Officers were transferring to, in terms of pay difference, they weren’t $30,000 or $50,000 or more behind.

Furthermore, if the New York times though 72 transfers in 12 years and 10 in one year was bad, they should set up a field office in Mount Vernon to report on our “badge drain” because we blow those numbers out of the water.

In the three years since Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard took over the city, we have lost 82 Officers to transfers and 26 to retirement. We aren’t losing 10 a year, we have lost the following under this current administration:

  • 2020: 20 Transfers and 10 Retirements
  • 2021: 31 Transfers and 7 Retirements
  • 2022: 23 Transfers and 7 Retirements
  • 2023: we are already up to 8 transfers, and we’ll break 10 by the end of next week.

Our situation is literally 10 times worse than the White Plains situation in 2001, we lose 10 Officers in 3 months. We have been averaging losing 1 Officer every two weeks since the current Mayor took over. That is beyond absurd, those numbers are staggering, and they are causing a PUBLIC SAFETY NIGHTMARE in Mount Vernon.

Last year crime was up, despite what Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard says, the numbers don’t lie and I have posted them countless times on social media, crime is rising no debate. Firearm Related Assaults are up a whopping 70% almost double the year before. Our two homicides so far this year were both children, one of Saturday, February 11th and the other earlier this month on Thursday, March 9th. The situation is perilous and neither the mayor or the Police Commissioner seems to care enough to take action. A major cause of the rise in crime is “badge drain”, let me try to explain why.

Our experienced Officers are leaving for better working conditions and better opportunities. The officers are taking with them years of knowledge and intelligence that is not easily replaced. They are leaving behind a Patrol division, the core of policing, that is averaging less than 3years of experience on the street and there is nobody to mentor and show these young Officers how to do things and more importantly how to do things the right way. Because of the shortage of Officers and the youth and inexperience of our Officers the trickle-down effect is leaving our Detective Division short staffed, School Resource Officers are non-existent, and specialty units are mostly a thing of the past.

Speaking of teaching our young Officers, that brings up another scary fact. We currently are about 26 Officers below our full compliment and the administration wants to hire over 20 new officers for the next academy class. The major issue with hiring so many officers is that because of the badge drain, there are not enough Field Training Officers in the department to train all these new recruits after the academy. The department plans on doubling up recruits with a single training officer. Instead of one-on-one field training, the new probationary Police Officers will be trained in small groups of 2 or more. This means the City of Mount Vernon will have a less well-rounded Officer and a less well-trained Officer when field training is over. Field training is meant to be one on one to truly get an Officer ready to be on their own and to be able to quickly and effectively address issues in a new officers development, this is not going to happen if the administration sticks to it plan for training the next group of recruits. 

The “Badge Drain” also has a profound negative affect on community Policing. How can you have Community Policing if you have Police Officers that aren’t on the job long enough to get to know anyone in the community. What Officer is going to spend their time immersing themselves into the community if their only goal is to find a department that will treat them right and pay them a fair wage. People in Mount Vernon DON’T KNOW THEIR POLICE OFFICERS anymore. Plain and simple, and that is dangerous on so many levels. For the Officers that get left behind and are not able to transfer out for whatever reason, they are left demoralized and disgruntled and again will be less likely to want to engage the community.

The fact that we no longer have any School Resource Officers is another result of the mass exodus of Officers in Mount Vernon. The mayor removed the SRO’s from the schools 3 years ago and has never put them back. These School Resource Officers form relationships with children in the schools that go far beyond the child’s school years. Everyone that was a SRO still keeps in contact with at least a few of the children that they helped mentor in the schools. Those relationships are beyond valuable, both to the department and the community. Those relationships are the cornerstone of improving Police and community relations. That is something we are losing because the mayor won’t address the problems in the Mount Vernon Police Department.

The information that these SRO’s used to glean from conversations with these young children would often help the department be prepare for things that may happen after school or make us aware of any “beefs” that were brewing between different youth groups. That valuable, lifesaving intelligence is gone. Not to mention with the rise in gun violence at schools around the country, our schools are left defenseless should some low life decide to target our young people, and that’s not too far fetched either, Mount Vernon was one of the places the perpetrator in the Buffalo mass shooting had considered attacking. 

If you remember about two years ago, The Mount Vernon Police Department along with every other Police Department in New York State, had to develop and implement a Police Reform Plan based on recommendations from a committee that was formed by Shawyn Patterson-Howard. When the report was completed, the mayor celebrated the report and promised to begin implementing the recommendations in the report. Well, Community Policing, Police Retention, Increased pay, and a better work schedule were all MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS from that report and none of them were implemented. The mayor made promises about Police Reform for the news media, and then never implemented any recommendations that she couldn’t use to gain positive press. It’s truly disheartening how little of that report has been considered.

That brings me to the last of the major issues I have with our “badge drain” issue that will affect the city of Mount Vernon for decades to come. Every administrator in this department, the Chief, the two Deputy Chiefs, the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer of every department with the exception of one person can retire within 2 years with the majority already able to retire. In 5 years who the hell is going to run the department. Sure, we have capable people that can be groomed to take over those positions, but who is going to groom them when the current people leave? There won’t be anyone to pass on the knowledge of how to run the department on a day-to-day basis.

The department is being run into the ground as it is, The current administration at the PD has not been doing the greatest of jobs, imagine if a bunch of people that are 2 and 3 year veterans now are forced to have to run the place in a few years. People that have never held an administrative job in their lives, what will become of the department then?

Listen, I am not crying wolf, I am not exaggerating anything, FOIL request the information, everything I am saying and everything I want to see addressed is causing the people of Mount Vernon to be less safe. We are in a PUBLIC SAFETY CRISIS and we have to address these issues before it’s too late. There are literal lives at stake and the people running your city can care less.

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AJ Woodson April 25, 2023 at 7:38 AM

Thank You

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AJ Woodson April 25, 2023 at 7:38 AM

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