Rochester, N.Y. - The City of Rochester's police chief and mayor are asking the Monroe County District Attorney's Office to review the actions of two officers accused of using excessive force and unlawfully arresting a Rochester man in a case of mistaken identity.
The officers are suspended without pay and could lose their jobs pending disciplinary proceeding as part of the RPD's internal investigation.
"Let me be clear," said Mayor Lovely Warren. "I've seen the footage, and what I saw not only angered me and troubled me, but it hurt me to my heart."
On August 3, the alleged victim, 37-year-old Christopher Pate of Rochester, filed a Notice of Claim, intending to sue the city. That document names Spenser McAvoy as one of the officers involved.
Back in May, police say two officers stopped Pate, who looked like a wanted suspect, and Pate handed over his identification.
"...to show that he was not the one," said Chief Michael Ciminelli. "However, these officers persisted and continued the encounter, instead of walking away like they should of. They ended up initiating a disorderly conduct arrest and using force."
Those charges were dropped. Pate claims the officers tased, beat and arrested him.
“I saw the officer on top of him, beating him," said Tina Davis, who saw the incident happening right outside her front door on Fulton Avenue, near Bloss Street. "The guy was yelling and asking him why are they beating him, because he wasn’t resisting or anything, because he wasn’t. From that point on, they took him down to the ground and was on top of him and being real aggressive.”
During a press conference Tuesday, the chief and mayor said, after reviewing the body-worn camera footage, they believe the purported actions of the officers rises to the level of possible criminal charges.
"Holding these officers accountable today, we give them a fighting chance in this community," Warren said. "They hold positions of authority and hold a lot of power out in our streets. In this country, and more specifically this city, people with that kind of authority must be held accountable."
"I'm profoundly sorry that this happened," Ciminelli said. "But not only for the citizens of this community, but to all these police officers that go out every day and serve this city with honor integrity and courage; we're doing this for them also."
The head of Rochester police union said he's both concerned and disappointed. He said there needs to be better communication between the city and officers concerning what they need, such as training and resources. He said this would ensure incidents like the Pate case wouldn't happen.
“They’re not going out every night to lose their job," said Micheal Mazzeo. "However, sometime situations unfold, and not knowing what’s in their mind, I have a concern that the city or the mayor are stating what their intentions were. I don’t know what was in their mind, and neither do they. And those are the things you hope to get to at the conclusion of the due process.”
"If there's a change and we have to go back and restructure our training, so we're not doing these things because these are officers were on a detail on an initiative in an area specific for a specific purpose...the community has to understand they have a specific job to do," Mazzeo said.
City Councilmember Willie Lightfoot said a draft proposal for a Police Accountability Board, to replace the current Civilian Review Board, is almost complete and ready to be presented to City Council. It's an independent investigation body that is meant to review the actions of officers in question.
"This is a pivotal time for our community,"said Lightfoot. "We have a responsibility to try and improve community and police relations, and creating a police accountability board will help achieve just that."