This Tuesday, America moved one step in the right direction when George Floyd and his family received justice through the court system. While we should be hopeful, we must also recognize that we still have a long way to go. George Floyd’s murder should never have taken place. Police departments should represent ALL citizens and work for - and with - them equally. As the former Co-Chair of the Mount Vernon Police Reform Commission and only attorney in the City Council race, I will work to pass legislation that increases civilian oversight and overall transparency, and limit the use of force. We must protect Mount Vernon citizens from the Derek Chauvins of this world. As we begin to think about what comes next after the emotional moments of the Chauvin verdict, I’d like to propose three main pillars for police reform that must support a change in how policing works, here in Mount Vernon and throughout this country: Transparency: All officers should have body cameras and vehicle cameras that are operating during ALL interactions with the public. This not only protects the citizens, but it protects the officers. As we have seen in so many horrendous and tragic cases, only explicit video evidence can hold officers accountable to the law - and to the taxpayers who fund their salaries. Civilian Oversight and Accountability: We should have a fully funded and well legislated Civilian Complaint Review Board that can not only review civilian complaints, but operate as a separate and independent body from the police department. This CCRB should have, among other powers, the explicit mandate to investigate each claim, subpoena witnesses and records, and recommend discipline. This body should have citizens of Mount Vernon sit on this board and have input into how officers should be disciplined. Use of Force: We must limit when officers are allowed to use deadly force. This change should come through a shift in training, and how officers are expected to do their jobs in a way that mitigates risk to both themselves and the public. Here in New York, I am heartened by our efforts at police reform - though we still have a long way to go. Under the Governor’s mandate, every municipality was required to undertake a review process and I can tell you with incredible confidence that we took this responsibility very seriously in Mount Vernon. We initiated conversations with people all over this city, from every walk of life and every background - including police officers and their labor union. We heard what people had to say, and we released a report that included recommendations that came directly from those discussions. In addition, our work on Mount Vernon - which was rigorous and painstaking - was complemented by Westchester County’s own police reform commission, and its recommendations. I believe that with strong leadership at the County and City levels, we can bring about real and lasting change. To be blunt: we need it. As a Black woman and an attorney, I was happy that a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges. But I would also note that it doesn’t mean that justice for all is necessarily the new norm. Indeed, the Chauvin verdict was an exception to the usual way in this country. What we need is complete change, a dramatic shift in the culture of policing. Taxpayer-funded police officers should be considered guardians of our safety and well-being, not armed combatants in some misguided idea of a “war” for control of our streets. We have a ton of work to do. I believe that work starts in legislative bodies like the Mount Vernon City Council, where reform and accountability must become the watchwords of the day. I am dedicating myself to pursuing those goals and to bringing justice and fairness to all our citizens.
Licensed NYS Attorney and Mount Vernon Resident, Danielle Browne, is endorsed by the Mount Vernon Forward coalition of citizens along with Ed Poteat and Cathlin Gleason for Mount Vernon City Council. Be sure to vote in the next Democratic Primary Election this June 22nd!