Thursday afternoon, the Mayor made a statement on Facebook live about a schedule change at the Mount Vernon Police Department.
The Mount Vernon Police Department for decades has been the lowest paid department in Westchester County. In addition to that atrocity, over the last six years and ESPECIALLY the last two years, the men and women of the Mount Vernon Police Department have been neglected, abused, taken advantage of, and ignored by the elected officials in the City of Mount Vernon. Sadly, we have also suffered even more so from our own top leadership of the police department.
We have endured unspeakable hardships for a modern police department. We haven’t had gas for our police cars. We’ve driven police cars with no air conditioning in 100° heat. We drive unsafe vehicles that we would impound if a civilian was driving. We’ve gone out ill equipped which is a safery hazard to the office and the residents we swore to serve. We don’t have less than lethal tools such as taser at the disposal of our Patrol units. We’ve been subjected to unfair and unevenly proportioned discipline. We have watched half our Department leave in the past 2 years through transfers and retirements and of course we make 20% to 65% less than every other department in Westchester County.
The one benefit that a police officer has if they decide to stay at the Mount Vernon Police Department is what is known as a “steady tour schedule”. Having that steady tour means you work the same hours every day you work. Being a police officer is a very tough job and takes a toll on your body. Adding rotating through the hours of the day takes an immense toll on your health, life span, personal life and family life.
On top of increasing your life span and the work life balance, there’s been much research that says a steady tour schedule for police officers is simply healthier and better for the mental well-being of the officer. This fact was even released just last year by the City in the Police Reform Commission report which stated that steady working tours for police officers helps improve their mental and physical health. Moreover, it stated that steady tours also helps achieve goals regarding community policing because that allows the same officers to patrol the same areas at the same time of the day every day. Steady working tours is also a hallmark of Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing model.
For a department that claims to be progressive and ahead of the curve it is truly surprising that the City of Mount Vernon would abandon this very forward-thinking schedule to go back to an “old school” schedule from the days of policing that the world is trying to move on from.
So many of our officers depend on this steady tour chart to take care of their families. Some have second jobs because we get paid so little, some have spouses that work and this schedule allows for them to save money on a baby sitter, and some have loved ones they care for and this schedule allows them to be of service to their family and serve this City. Lives are being upended by the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. They took none of this into account before making this life changing decision. Maybe they did and that is worse because then that means they saw, read and spoke the data but simply don’t care about our life span, mental health, families, and the community policing model. Where does the morale go if you work a job that your City and adminstration continuously prove by their action that they don’t care about your safety, mental health and bottom line that their actions WILL shorten your LIFE.
Mayor Shawn Patterson Howard, Commissioner Glenn Scott, and the rest of the Command Staff that weighed in on steady tours all disregarded these facts. To add insult to injury, ALL of the people that were part of this decision-making process have Monday to Friday 8-4 jobs INSIDE headquarters; so it affects NONE of them. Their decision only effects the men and women that actually go out every day and do the hard work while being underpaid and given little to no resources. It is also a decision done almost mid year, well after the officers have picked vacations and tried to plan their personal lives. What does the officer who already paid for school do? We are told to plan our lives for the year and now come April first they want to just change the rules.
In the press conference it was stated that this was brought about due to staffing issues. In private meetings of which I and other members of the PBA were part of, Commissioner Scott stated to us that this had to do with low productivity and high sick time usage. Sick time is high all around the country. We are in a pandemic. We are being overworked, and morale is lower than it has ever been. As far as productivity goes, I guess the people of Mount Vernon will have the Mayor and the Commissioner to thank when our officers increase the number of summonses they write. Sounds like the Mayor is looking for another “hidden” tax hike. This will increase the financial burden on the taxpaying citizens of the city of Mount Vernon as they seem more concerned with summons as they overlook crime is down or the fact that despite staffing issues and low pay, we have removed countless illegal guns off the streets.
Personally, I think this is just Commissioner Glenn Scott continuing his attacks against the PBA in an attempt to weaken the union. I know that this is not about public safety, and this is not about officer safety. This is about the City trying to further crush the morale of the police department and break the strongest PBA that the Mount Vernon Police Department has ever seen. This is quite simply “UNION BUSTING” and the city is making it painfully obvious.
The staffing issues that the Mayor refers to in her Facebook live statement are a direct result of the City’s unwillingness to negotiate with our union. Cops that work for Mount Vernon are highly sought after by other departments, and those other departments pay a lot more money than Mount Vernon does. The Mayor swears she wants to give us a contract and so does everyone on her “Mount Vernon Forward” ticket that won seats on the city council, but so far the only people that got a contract was the fire department. The city refuses to even talk about money with the PBA. We have had two negotiations and we have discussed nothing. All the city has done was take away a benefit that our officers had-our steady tours. Officers want to stay here, they want to work here, but every step the department leadership has taken over the past two years is pushing these great officers out the door. We believe officer safety and public safety is affected by staffing issues but hurting our hard working officers is not the solution!
Right now the Mount Vernon Police Department is by far the least experienced Police Department probably in New York state and maybe anywhere. We’re a department of young and ambitious officers, but with few seasoned people available to train and mentor these young officers it makes it difficult to mold them into the great officers we know they all can be. Our Patrol Division is comprised of cops with two or three years on the job supervised by many young, freshly minted supervisors that are still learning how to supervise effectively. All the officers and supervisors are great people and all having the potential to be great officers and leaders, but all are at a huge disadvantage because of the conditions created by the Police Administration and the low pay.
This schedule change will cause even more officers to leave the department. This creates a HUGE officer safety problem, but even more importantly it creates a huge PUBLIC SAFETY problem. With such little experience in a job as complicated as policing, mistakes are bound to happen, it’s a miracle no fatal mistakes have happened yet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to count on miracles for making sure my officers and our citizens remain safe.
Thank you for your attention to this very serious matter and please reach out to all your elected officials that cover Mount Vernon on a city, county, and state level. Express your displeasure with how our city and Police Department is being run.