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Advocates for 10-Year-Old Question Procedures in May 17 Traffic Stop

Patti Singer

Howard Eagle, left, Minister Clifford Florence and Na’ilah El Bey at a news conference June 10, 2020 about the traffic stop on May 17 in which Rochester Police officers placed the girl in handcuffs. Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Supporters of a 10-year-old girl placed in handcuffs during a traffic stop on May 17 are calling for the Rochester Police Department to make changes that would prevent such an incident from happening again.

In a news conference June 10, advocates said they wanted the RPD to have a full, impartial investigation of the traffic stop that occurred on Route 104 and the conduct of the officers involved. They seek a review and if necessary a change in policies regarding when minors are placed in handcuffs and training on dealing with children.

The advocates also called for a public apology and discipline for the officers.

They also began circulating a petition to City Council that calls for the contract between the city and the Rochester Police Locust Club to require union members to “administer all professional duties with good-faith efforts toward equity and respect toward the communities the member serves.”

The petition states that “taxpayers and nontaxpayers, property owners and community of Rochester feel unsafe due to the misdeeds of police officers and desire officers to serve them respectfully regardless of race, nationality, religion, sex, age or creed.”

The child, Na’ilah El Bey, was at the news conference but did not talk to the media. The girl’s mother, Aqueelah Sovereign El Bey, also attended but did not address the media.

Minister Clifford Florence and Howard Eagle, both advocates for racial justice, family friend Nicole Clark and activist Anthony Hall spoke on behalf of the family. About two dozen supporters attended.

The spokespeople said they have requested meetings with Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester Police chief La’Ron Singletary.

They said Warren has a daughter who is about Na’ilah’s age and they questioned what the mayor’s reaction would be if it had been her child placed in handcuffs.

Hall said at the news conference that it is unclear whether the family would file a notice of claim, which is the prelude to a potential lawsuit.

Statements read at the news conference said the officers were rude and disrespectful. They said the officers handled Na’ilah roughly.

The advocates said that according to Na’ilah’s religion, males are not supposed to touch females, and the advocates said no female officer was summoned.

“RPD has to do better,” Hall said. “We’re here to make them do better.”

Warren said she is open to meeting with anyone and has received emails about a conversation. She said that because the El Bey family may be considering a lawsuit, the request needs to go through attorneys for the city and the family. “So we’re waiting to hear back from them.”

Warren made the remarks around midday after she and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul toured areas on North Clinton Avenue that had been damaged in May 30 looting and to celebrate progress on La Marketa International Plaza.

Upon Warren’s return to City Hall, she encountered the El Bey family and their supporters. A Facebook post shows Warren talking to Na’ilah and then with the child’s mother. But the video ends during the conversation with Aqueelah Sovereign El Bey as she is explaining to the mayor the concept of sovereign status and what that means in terms of their relationship to government.

Body worn camera footage of traffic stop has not been released, despite requests from the police union to Singletary to make it public.

Warren said that body camera video must be requested under the Freedom of Information Law. She said that the city consistently follows a policy for releasing footage, and does so upon request unless it is used in investigating a crime. On the Facebook video, she is heard telling supporters that the video would be released according to FOIL guidelines.

On May 18, RPD released the following statement:

“The initial traffic stop was the result of the vehicle having an expired inspection from September, 2018. Furthermore, the vehicle did not have a front license plate which is also a violation of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law. The driver refused to provide proof of a valid driver’s license when requested by officers. During the course of the investigation it was determined that the vehicle would be towed and the occupants were asked to exit the vehicle.

“The occupants of the vehicle claimed to be of sovereign citizen status, where they do not recognize the rules of our society. They refused to cooperate with officers and asked for a supervisor. Per policy, the officers requested a supervisor to the scene and a sergeant responded to the location.

“The driver (a 21 year old male) claimed to have “diplomatic immunity” which was determined to not be the case. After several requests, the driver finally stepped out of the car and was arrested for Obstructing Governmental Administration (OGA) and the aforementioned NYS V&T charges.

“A (a 42 year old) passenger was arrested for OGA and another passenger (21 year old female) became resistive and was ultimately charged with OGA and resisting arrest. The final passenger (a 10-year-old female) stepped out of the vehicle and was asked to step to the side of the road and away from traffic. The 10 year-old was asked a few times by the officer to get out of the roadway for everyone’s safety as cars were traveling down the expressway. The 10 year-old during the encounter began to pull away from the officers. It appears the officer at this point made a decision to handcuff the 10 year-old to assist in controlling the actions of the 10 year-old and for the safety of all involved as cars were traveling down the highway.

Chief Singletary has asked the Professional Standards Section to conduct a preliminary review of the case to ensure all procedures and policies were followed by the officers during this incident.”