Rochester Police Facing a Class Action Lawsuit Over Allegations of Excessive Force

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Rochester Police Facing a Class Action Lawsuit Over Allegations of Excessive Force
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The death of unarmed black man Daniel Prude occurring while in police custody in 2020 is credited with sparking a class action lawsuit against the Rochester Police Department. The department is facing allegations of racism and excessive force, particularly in regard to treatment of Black and Latinx communities in the city, especially during the 2020 civil rights protests. The official class action complaint points to a Ph.D. dissertation in which more than 3,000 use-of-force reports reflect a higher frequency and severity of force in minority neighborhoods by the police department than in other places in the city.

The complaint alleges that hundreds of protesters were injured in just three days of protest.

Methods of force described in the lawsuit and reportedly used by the police on protesters include batons, tear gas, flash-bang grenades, armored vehicles, and police dogs. The complaint points to this as well as a “historical record spanning more than four decades” to demonstrate the Rochester Police Department’s “...inhumane, racist, and antithetical to the functioning of a civilized society” use-of-force practices.

The complaint includes more than 50 incidents of Rochester officers using excessive force against people of color. The lawsuit argues that these and other conduct by the police constitute violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments regarding law enforcement conduct, free speech, and racial discrimination.

The City has reportedly been aware of the problem for decades, yet not made any tangible steps to correct it.

Despite an order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reinvent policing in New York, the mayor’s submitted proposal allegedly refused requests from the Police Accountability Board to fire officers with ties to white supremacist organizations. The lawsuit does point out that this provision was later included, but the mayor’s authority over the police department and reticence to include it in the first proposal does not bode well for people of color living in Rochester. Rochester City officials, in particular, were reported in the complaint as being deliberately indifferent, “failing to meaningfully train, supervise, and discipline officers who use excessive force and instead suppressing evidence of officer misconduct…”

The lawsuit is seeking a variety of corrective injunctions to be applied to the Rochester Police Department.

The plaintiffs request that the Court declare the police department’s conduct unconstitutional and permanently prohibit the City of Rochester and its employees from using excessive force, engaging in racially-biased policing, and unlawfully suppressing peaceful protests. The suit also requests compensatory and punitive damages for plaintiffs named in the lawsuit who allegedly suffered physical and emotional injuries at the hands of the Rochester police.

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