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Activist urges city to release police video 

A video showing Rochester police officers' interaction with a citizen should be released to the public, a long-time police-reform activist said today.
click to enlarge The Rev. Stewart Lewis is a social justice activist. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The Rev. Stewart Lewis is a social justice activist.

The video was taken by a police body camera in early May, when two officers stopped and questioned Rochester resident Christopher Pate, who is African American, during a crime investigation. Pate says that even through he showed them identification proving he was not the man they were seeking, the officers tased and assaulted him. The officers charged him with disorderly conduct. He was treated for injuries at Rochester General Hospital.

The officers have been suspended without pay, and yesterday Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief Michael Ciminelli said they have asked District Attorney Sandra Doorley to review the officers' conduct. Ciminelli said he believes their actions "may very well rise to the level of criminal prosecution."

City officials said yesterday that the RPD will release the video "and all public documents related to the incident once it is legally appropriate to do so."

 At a press conference this morning, the Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Church Ministry, said he was pleased by Warren's and Ciminelli's tone and by the disciplinary actions taken against the police officers. While  Pate isn't the first person to accuse officers of misconduct, Stewart said his case is different because of the video footage, which makes it hard to dispute what happened.

The video has been shown to City Council members, Stewart said, and it caused some of them to cry.
Stewart urged District Attorney Sandra Doorley, who is elected to her position, to avoid  political expediency with the Pate case. There is growing mistrust between people of color in the city and police officers, he said, and the Pate incident is "the tip of the iceberg." The Rochester community will be watching this case intently, he said.

"Police misconduct and excessive use of force and the violation of human and civil rights of people has been going on for decades in this city," Stewart said.  "No one, not even a police officer, is above the law." 

Pate's arrest and alleged beating requires a closer look at a police culture that is racist, misogynistic, and homophobic, Stewart said, and he questioned the training new officers receive and whether anything is done to weed out bad officers from the profession.

Christopher Pate was at the press conference, but his attorney advised him not to speak to media. His mother, Sandra Pate, said she no longer trusts police after seeing what happened to her son.

"It made me feel very, very broken," she said.

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