Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis hopes to appoint new police commissioner within a week

City of Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis in City of Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis in his office at City Hall. (Dec. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

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Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis said Thursday that he hopes to have a new city top cop in place by the end of next week to replace Police Commissioner Carl Bell, whom he fired two days ago.

In the interim, Deputy Commissioner Reginald Ward has been tapped to take the reins of the city's 205-member department, according to Davis. Police Chief John Roland, a 32-year veteran of the Mount Vernon police force, will run the day-to-day operations.

"I'm in negotiations with a possible commissioner," Davis told Newsday.

Sources in the city said that Davis is looking for a replacement outside the department.

The mayor said that his candidate has a background in urban policing. Mount Vernon officers have told Newsday that Bell's lack of such experience made him a bad fit for the department.

The last commissioner Davis hired was David Chong, who was a high-ranking commander with the New York City Police Department and who left Mount Vernon to head up the White Plains Department of Public Safety in 2010.

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Davis said he wouldn't comment further on his commissioner candidate because the deal has not yet been finalized.

Bell was fired by Davis during a heated, hourlong meeting Tuesday afternoon in the mayor's office.

Davis declined again Thursday to comment on the decision to fire Bell.

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"Obviously, he was a holdover, so I did give him a chance," the mayor said. "But I can't discuss something that could have litigious possibilities."

Bell, 49, a highly decorated federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent and supervisor, was appointed commissioner Aug. 2, 2010, by Davis' predecessor, Clinton Young.

Davis reclaimed the mayor's office in the 2011 election.

As Mount Vernon experienced a surge in violent crime last year, Davis played an increasingly active role in the Police Department, a growing source of friction between him and his police commissioner.

A month ago, Davis met with a group of police officers and offered advice on policing strategy, officers told Newsday.

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Bell could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Bell told Newsday on Wednesday that he had reported "crimes" committed by officers -- including alleged bar brawls, grand larceny and drunken incidents in which one Mount Vernon officer allegedly stole a cellphone and another waved his gun at civilians.

Bell said he investigated the incidents and reported them to Davis. However, only one officer was disciplined internally, he said. Another Mount Vernon officer, Joseph Russo, 47, was indicted last week for allegedly claiming $226.60 in false overtime.

"Instead of terminating them, these are the ones he's meeting with to decide how to get rid of me," Bell said of Davis. "He interfered on their behalf when he should have been backing his commissioner."

Bell also said that no matter who was named to lead the department, he expected Davis to be the one running the department.

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"That's what he's wanted all along," Bell said.

In appointing Ward to temporarily head the police force, Davis has a commander who hails from the NYPD.

Before arriving in Mount Vernon seven years ago and serving as its deputy commissioner of technology and special services, Ward was an honorary deputy commissioner of the NYPD, where he was on the department's transition team under then-Police Commissioner William Bratton. He also served on the NYPD's technology re-engineering committee.

Roland began his career with the Mount Vernon police as a patrol officer in the early 1980s and rose through the ranks. He was promoted to sergeant in 1989. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1996 and named patrol squad commander. He was promoted to captain two years later and placed in charge of the patrol division. In 2004, he again was promoted, this time to deputy chief, where he was put in charge of the department's counterterrorism efforts.

In May 2011, Roland, a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was appointed chief of the Mount Vernon Police Department.

Both Ward and Roland did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

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