By Staff –
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli announced Tuesday that two Rochester Police Officers have been suspended for allegedly using excessive force and making a wrongful arrest.
The suspensions stems from an incident in May when the two officers arrested a man, Christopher Pate and allegedly punched him in the face while he was handcuffed.
Pate says he was detained by two RPD officers on May 5th, at the corner of Fulton Avenue and Bloss Street. The officers asked him twice for his identification, which he said he gave to one of the officers.
Pate claims he was then grabbed shot with a Taser and handcuffed. While he was handcuffed, Pate says he was punched in the face by one of the officers, causing bone and jaw fractures and other damages to his mouth.
Mayor Warren and Ciminelli say they have asked the Monroe County District Attorney to review the conduct of two police officers who were involved in the incident. Officer Spencer McAvoy a six year veteran, and Officer Michael Sippel, a nine-year veteran have been brought up on internal charges and have been suspended without pay pending disciplinary proceedings.
“As we work so very hard each and every day to build stronger, more positive and lasting community relations between our police officers and the citizens they serve, we must also ensure that when, and if, wrongdoing occurs we hold those involved responsible,” said Mayor Warren. “I will not – and the community will not – tolerate a culture in our Police Department that looks the other way when officers engage in bad behavior, particularly when it comes to the use of force.”
“Understanding that we need to honor and celebrate all the good things our Police Department and officers do comes with an equal understanding that we cannot tolerate bad actions or the abuse of power,” Warren said.
“After a thorough review of the facts and video footage related to this matter, we are moving forward with disciplinary action and unpaid suspension for these officers. If the actions are sustained, termination would be warranted,” said Police Chief Ciminelli. “I have also forwarded this matter to the DA because I believe the alleged actions involved may very well rise to the level of criminal prosecution. We must be accountable to the community we serve and to the many police officers who perform their duties with honor and integrity. The actions of a few bad acting officers will not be tolerated. Especially in this day and age when there is such a mistrust of law enforcement, we must send a clear message to our citizens and community partners that we respect them and we will not tolerate this type of behavior within our ranks.”
Reverend Lewis Stewart with the United Christian Leadership Ministry held a news conference Wednesday morning on behalf of Pate.
Stewart said he applauds the tone set by Mayor Lovely Warren and Chief of Police Cimninelli in their appropriate disciplining of the two officers. “These two men betrayed the citizens of this community and ultimately their badges in racially profiling the victim, Christopher Pate… the mayor and Chief demonstrated moral leadership…”
Steward has been advocating—on behalf of Pate—for the city to take disciplinary actions on the officers since the May incident.
Stewart says he feels the actions taken by Chief Ciminelli are “totally fitting”.
The incident was caught on one of the officer’s body-cam. RPD officials say in in the interest of transparency, they will release the body-camera footage and all public documents related to the incident once it is legally appropriate to do so.
Mayor Warren said when she saw the footage it hurt her to her heart. “In this country and this city in particular, people with this kind of authority must be held accountable.” Warren said.
Depending on the findings of disciplinary proceedings, the two officers could face termination of their employment with the Rochester Police Department.
Watch Clips of Wednesday’s Press Conference with Rev. Lewis Stewart