By Tyronda James
Pastor Wanda Wilson of Open Arms Christian Fellowship Ministry says it was only just weeks ago the community witnessed the Harris Street incident that involved a Rochester Police Department officer using pepper spray on a nine year old black child in a crisis situation.
“Once again, we (UCLM) are here holding another press conference to talk about the reckless and disgusting behavior of the Rochester Police Department,” Wilson said. “This time in relation to pepper spraying a black female with her three year old daughter in close proximity.”
Wilson is referring to the Feb. 22, Portland Avenue incident where RPD officers responded to a report of an alleged shoplifting at Rite Aid.
The United Christian Leadership Ministry continues to call for accountability and transparency between law enforcement and communities of color. Announced March 8, the community advocates now call for (1) an investigation of white supremacists in the RPD; (2) creation of a Community Public Safety Patrol; (3) the termination of the officer involved; and (4) an apology by the Manager of Rite Aid store involved regarding the Feb. 22 incident.
These incidents, they say, continue to unfortunately occur involving RPD and the black and brown community, even months after the Daniel Prude incident last March.
Wilson said the behavior displayed by the RPD officer was “warrior policing is not the behavior we want in our communities,” she said. “The inhumane treatment and lack of compassion for black and brown males, black and brown females and now we have to add black and brown babies, is unacceptable. …
This has been happening too long in Rochester and nothing is changing.”
Wilson noted that both UCLM and the Police Accountability Board (PAB) have presented real police reform proposals to the mayor and the chief of police that need immediate implementation. She said the officer involved in this recent incident needs to be held accountable.
Rodolfo (Rudy) Rivera, UCLM member and chief executive officer of The Father Laurence (Larry) Tracy Advocacy Center referenced the five police reform proposals that UCLM and the Police Reform Proposal Committee submitted in January;
- A Citizens’ Public Safety Interview Panel
- Racial Justice Education/Training Curriculum
- Training in De-escalation
- Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Program
- Pre-Arrest Diversion
The advocates are demanding change in the city of Rochester now.
UCLM’s Body Worn Camera Committee co-chair, Alex White said these are situations where police treat black residents as less than human.
“What we have is a gang, using terror and violence to obtain compliance from the black and brown residents of our city,” he said. “We need RPD to fix its training, to change its culture and to change the way it manages its officers. Only then do we have any hope of turning the police into guardians, not thugs.”
The community leaders are also calling for managers of the store to drop the charges against the young women involved in the Feb. 22 incident.
One officer has been placed on administrative duty. Internal investigations are still ongoing.
Watch the UCLM press conference at the Minority Reporter’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/minorityreporter/videos/444170597000136.