On the skinny blue line

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For Rochester Police Department officers, a troublesome job has grown even tougher over the past 12 months.

“When I put on my uniform and go to work … I’m proud,” says Mike, a sergeant who has been with the division for round 10 years. “And then, maybe on the other side, tired and discouraged.” 

Fearing potential injury to their careers, Mike and many of the different RPD personnel quoted on this article spoke to the Rochester Beacon given that their actual names not be used.

They say they serve the Rochester public with pleasure, however are angered and annoyed by the therapy they’ve obtained from Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, City Council and a few locally. They additionally fear {that a} misstep on responsibility may result in departmental disciplinary motion, and even depart them susceptible to legal fees. Of the 4, one identifies as a member of a minority group. (Among sworn RPD officers, Blacks account for less than 11 %; even fewer officers—7 %—stay within the metropolis.)

Michael Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club and an RPD investigator, says most of the union’s members really feel that means. The Locust Club represents roughly 725 RPD staff, together with officers, sergeants, investigators and captains. 

“We got cops that put every ounce of what they’ve got into the job,” Mazzeo says. “Now, all of a sudden, they get the feeling that there’s nobody there (who) supports them.” 

That uncertainty boosts the anxiousness and stress officers really feel after they reply to calls that may require split-second, life-or-death selections. They level to the Daniel Prude case as a main instance of what they worry can occur after they do what they consider to be their jobs.

The Prude incident

Police arrested Prude on Rochester’s Jefferson Avenue early on the morning of March 23. The 41-year-old Black man was bare, seemed to be affected by an acute psychological well being downside and had not too long ago ingested phencyclidine, a robust drug that may trigger agitation, mania, hallucinations and irrational pondering. 

Body digicam footage from officers on the scene revealed that they handcuffed Prude, put a skinny cloth “spit hood” on his head to stop him from spitting on others, and held him on the bottom for a number of minutes. While the officers have been restraining him, he stopped respiration.

Emergency medical technicians responded, gave Prude CPR and transported him to Strong Memorial Hospital, the place he died on March 30. The Monroe County medical expert subsequently ruled the death a homicide brought on by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” 

News of Prude’s loss of life was not made public till Sept. 2, after which his household launched police physique digicam footage of the incident. Coming after the loss of life in May of George Floyd, one other Black man, by the hands of Minneapolis police, the information spurred weeks of protests by Black Lives Matter and different teams in downtown Rochester. 

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Protests occurred at numerous places in downtown Rochester, together with the Public Safety Building.
(Photo by Mike Costanza)

Demonstrators, typically numbering over 1,000, pressed for extra intensive investigations of the circumstances of Prude’s loss of life, the firing of the three officers who held him down, and the resignations of Warren after which RPD Chief La’Ron Singletary. They additionally referred to as for defunding the police. Prude’s household needs legal fees introduced in opposition to the officers who have been concerned in his loss of life,

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