Community leaders applaud RPD action

ROCHESTER — Community leaders are applauding the city’s response to an alleged incident of excessive force by officers of the Rochester Police Department.

During a press conference Aug. 28, Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief Michael Ciminelli announced that Officers Spencer McAvoy and Michael Sippel were brought up on internal charges and suspended without pay pending disciplinary proceedings that could result in the termination of their employment. The two officers were involved in a May 5 incident on Fulton Avenue that prompted allegations of excessive use of force against and the unlawful arrest of Christopher Tate.

Ciminelli said that after an internal investigation, the RPD’s Professional Standards Section concluded that there was sufficient evidence to charge the officers with violations of departmental rules and regulations, policies and procedures, and referred the matter to the Monroe County District Attorney’s office for possible criminal misconduct. The incident was recorded on a body-worn camera worn by one of the officers. City officials said the body-camera footage would be released to the public once it is legally permissible to do so following a determination of whether charges will be brought against the officers.

Responding to the city’s actions, the Rev. Lewis Stewart said during an Aug. 29 press conference at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church that he appreciated the moral leadership demonstrated by police and city leaders. Tate attended the press conference with his mother, Sandra, but did not speak.

During the May 5 incident, Tate sustained a fracture to the jaw and occipital bone, as well as facial lacerations after being stopped while walking and asked for identification by the officers, who were in pursuit of a different suspect, according to a letter from Stewart to District Attorney Sandra Dorley. After the incident, in which he also was handcuffed and struck with a taser gun, Tate was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The charges were subsequently dismissed in Rochester City Court, according to the letter.

“With the growing chasm of mistrust and suspicion between the police and the community, this cancer in the midst can no longer be overlooked,” said Stewart, who leads the United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York. “No one is above the law.”

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