New York’s Rochester Police Department is being sued for violating the civil rights of Black and Brown people for more than 40 years through its “inhumane, racist” use of force, a new class action lawsuit alleges.
The nationwide class action, filed Monday in federal court in New York, comes after a year of intensifying scrutiny on the police department following the death of Daniel Prude in police custody.
“Simply put, a stunning historical record spanning more than four decades demonstrates that the Rochester Police Department’s use-of-force practices continue to be inhumane, racist, and antithetical to the functioning of a civilized society,” the lawsuit states.
The class action was filed by a group of lawyers, activists and people who attended protests in the city and suffered violence at the hands of the department.
The lawsuit takes aim at the police department, its leaders and top officers, as well as Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and top officials.
It alleges police in Rochester routinely deploy excessive force against minorities, especially during protests, and that department and city officials have let such conduct go mostly without punishment.
“The City is either unwilling or unable to stop these practices,” the lawsuit states. “Time and time again, going back decades, the City and RPD have made hollow promises of reform but the culture of violent, racialized policing has not changed.”
The 96-page complaint details more than 50 instances of alleged police abuse against people of color, including graphic images of injuries suffered at the hands of police and police posts demonstrating a culture of racism.
In one example, on January 29 this year, Rochester police officers called to a family dispute chased, handcuffed and pepper sprayed a nine-year-old Black girl. When reports of the incident came to light, the department justified its officers actions, because the child “refused to put her feet in the officer’s patrol car.
A ‘Need for Change’ to the Rochester Police Department
The class action lawsuit is calling for protection of the Constitution, as well as the need for change.
“The need for meaningful change in the Rochester Police Department is real and for people of color in Rochester, it could not be more urgent. Plaintiffs bring this suit to end the RPD’s decades-long use of violent, unconstitutional force—before more lives, more Black and brown lives, are lost.”
Department and top officials’ actions violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive force by the police, the lawsuit claims, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee that a person’s race will not condemn them to violence or death at the hands of law enforcement officers, and the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
The class action lawsuit seeks to represent anyone who was subjected to excessive force by law enforcement officials in the City of Rochester between April 5, 2018 and April 5, 2021.
The group is asking a judge for Class certification, permanent enjoinment preventing the police department from violating citizens’ constitutional rights, and appointment of an independent monitor to reform the department’s policies.
The class action is requesting damages for the plaintiffs, fees and costs.
This is the latest lawsuit in a sweep of suits following last year’s protests against racial injustice, in which hundreds of people around the country allege they were injured by police while demonstrating.
Protestors, reporters and other civilians are fighting back against police brutality in the United States, suing both the government officials and police responsible for attacks on demonstrators and people of color. For a complete guide to the nation’s racial justice lawsuits, click here.
What do you think about this civil rights class action lawsuit against the Rochester Police Department? Let us know in the comments!
The plaintiffs are represented by Elliot D. Shields and David A. Roth of Roth & Roth, LLP, Katie Mkarthy and Nick Brustin of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP, Joshua S. Moskovitz of The Law Office Of Joshua Moskovitz, Donald Thompson of Easton Thompson Kasperek Shiffirin LLP and Jeffrey D. Martino and Ivory L. Bishop of Baker & Hostetler, LLP.
The Rochester Police Department Civil Right Class Action Lawsuit is Anthony Hall, Stanley Martin, Nicholas Robertson, Devorah Chatman, Reynaldo Deguzman, Emily Good, Winona Miller, Dynasty Buggs, Lore Mcspadden-walker, Emily Mcintyre, Free The People Roc, And National Lawyers Guild Rochester, Inc., Et Al, V. Lovely Ann Warren, La’ron Singletary, Cynthia Herriott-sullivan, Henry C. Favor, Raymond W. Dearcop, Ralph Montinarelli, Samuel Lucyshyn, Randy Potuck, William Baker, Alexander Elmore, John Clinkhammer, Domenic Borrelli, Matthew Drake, Dakota Vanbrederode, Ethan Paszko “John Doe” Rochester Police Department Officers 1–200, Adam Bello, Todd Baxter, The City Of Rochester, County Of Monroe, “Richard Roe” Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies 1–200, Stephen A. Dellasala, “Sally Sue” New York State Police Officers 1-200, Case No. 6:21-cv-06296, in The United States District Court Western District Of New York.
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