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Judge finds RPD officer used excessive force 

Suspended Rochester police officer Michael Sippel has been found guilty of a misdemeanor assault charge by City Court Judge Thomas Rainbow Morse, according to media reports.

Sippel's case centered around his use of force during a May 2018 incident, which resulted in the arrest of  Christopher Pate on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. A judge later dismissed those charges.

Pate has said that Sippel and Officer Spenser McAvoy stopped and questioned him about a crime they were investigating. He provided identification proving that he wasn't the suspect they were looking for, he said, but the officers tased him, handcuffed him, and assaulted him. A hospital treated Pate for injuries that included fractured occipital and jaw bones.

The Rochester Police Department's Professional Standards Section investigated the incident and found that there was evidence enough to charge both officers with violating department rules and regulations. Then-Police Chief Michael Ciminelli suspended Sippel and McAvoy without pay and asked District Attorney Sandra Doorley to review the case and determine whether the officers should face criminal charges.  Only Sippel was charged.

In handing down the guilty verdict, Morse noted that officers can use force to make arrests, but that Sippel used more force than could be justified, according to media reports. The decision comes just after Rochester City Council passed a law overhauling Rochester's police oversight system, though Morse said the verdict was about this specific incident and nothing else.

Sippel opted for a bench trial. He's scheduled to appear for sentencing on July 25.

Mayor Lovely Warren released the following statement on the verdict:

Today’s verdict sends a clear message that the City of Rochester and our Police Department does not, and will not, ever look the other way when our officers act inappropriately. Any allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted.

I want to thank Judge Morse for his careful and thoughtful deliberation of this case. Today, I ask all citizens of Rochester to respond to this verdict with dignity and grace.

The Rochester Police Department remains committed to building trust and respect with the community it serves. The actions that led to this trial are a reminder that we must rededicate ourselves to this goal. In fact, just today we launched our recruitment efforts to increase diversity within our police department so it reflects the community it serves.

I believe in our city and I believe in the men and women of the Rochester Police Department who risk their lives each and every day to protect this community. Together, we can and will be known as a national leader in police-community relations.
The Rochester Police Locust Club, the RPD officers' union, also issued a statement. "We are shocked and disappointed in the decision out of City Court today," the statement said. "However, since the internal disciplinary process is still ongoing and there are potential appeals of the criminal charges, we are going to refrain from any further statements on the matter to protect the rights of Officer Sippel."

This is a developing story and will likely be updated throughout the day.

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