Two Rochester Police Department officers have been suspended without pay over allegations of excessive force in a May incident. Sean Lahman
If every Rochester police officer were as merciless as the two cops who allegedly beat Christopher Pate, nearly every pedestrian in the city would be in line for a broken face.
That’s because Pate’s alleged crime was jaywalking. The cops called it disorderly conduct. But it was jaywalking.
The episode was detailed in an incident report filed by one of the officers after Pate was arrested, and in the criminal complaint against Pate that a Rochester City Court judge dismissed after recognizing it for the trumped-up nonsense it was.
It all went down around 4:45 p.m. May 5, when officers Spenser McAvoy and Michael Sippel were driving eastbound on Bloss Street and spotted Pate walking on the sidewalk near the corner of Fulton Avenue.
McAvoy wrote in his report that Pate fit the description of a wanted man who was black, had a thin build and a large forehead, and wore dreadlocks or braids. McAvoy reported that he got out of the cruiser and approached Pate, who was on the south side of the street.
“(Pate) changed his direction of travel, wouldn’t look at me, and began to walk northbound across Bloss Street and in doing so impeded the vehicular traffic of a gray Honda sedan that was traveling eastbound on Bloss,” McAvoy wrote.
McAvoy wrote that he asked Pate whether he had identification, to which Pate reportedly replied, “Have a good day, officer.”
“This exchange happened several times and then I grabbed (Pate) by the hand, at which point he told me that I had no reason to stop him,” McAvoy wrote.
His report went on to read that Pate showed a public assistance card that revealed Pate was not the wanted man.
Pate says police tased and handcuffed him, then punched him in the face, causing a broken jaw and other injuries Sean Lahman, @SeanLahman
Right then, McAvoy wrote, he noticed his body camera had somehow turned off. He reported that he “disengaged momentarily” to turn his camera back on.
In the meantime, Pate went on his way, only to be confronted from behind by Sippel, who asked Pate to stop and show his identification.
Hadn’t Pate just been through this? That might have crossed Pate’s mind because, according to the report, he refused to stop and kept walking eastbound, this time on the north side of Bloss, before turning north onto Fulton.
“In front of 75 Fulton Ave. we caught up to (Pate),” McAvoy wrote. “After a use of force (Pate) was taken into custody.”
The report didn’t chronicle the use of force but noted that Pate was transported to Rochester General Hospital for “facial injuries and a tasing.” Pate claims after he was tased and handcuffed, he was punched repeatedly in the head and that the blows broke bones.
Because Pate was too beaten up to go to be processed at the police station, he was issued a ticket to appear in City Court three days later to answer the charges against him.
Pate was arrested on two charges — disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
What was disorderly about his conduct?
“The defendant did cross Bloss St. northbound and stepped into the street in front of a gray Honda sedan which impeded the vehicles (sic) travel,” read the criminal complaint against Pate. “The defendant was not in a crosswalk.”
Not in a crosswalk?! Impeded a vehicle?! Have these officers ever observed the walking patterns of pedestrians downtown, or anywhere in the city? Traffic slowing for a person crossing the street outside the crosswalk is an everyday, every minute occurrence.
Jaywalking violates state law, which requires pedestrians crossing a roadway outside a crosswalk or intersection to yield to vehicular traffic. It also violates a city ordinance if it’s done inside the Inner Loop or on a main traffic artery or on a through street.
Deputy Chief La Ron Singletary discusses RPD’s investigation into alleged police assault in Christopher Pate case Sean Lahman, @SeanLahman
Bloss Street is none of those. And even if it were, jaywalking is an infraction punishable by a fine of between $25 and $500 or 15 days in jail.
But jaywalking is so commonplace that police don’t bother enforcing it. A Rochester Police Department spokeswoman told me last year, in response to a request for statistics on jaywalking, that the department hadn’t issued a ticket downtown in recent memory.
No wonder Pate refused to put his hands behind his back after being told several times, as police alleged in the criminal complaint charging him with resisting arrest.
No wonder Chief Michael Ciminelli said at a news conference Tuesday announcing McAvoy’s and Sippel’s unpaid suspension that Pate should’ve never been arrested.
“It wasn’t even that officers went too far in making an arrest,” Ciminelli said. “This arrest should not have been made in the first place, and it triggered a series of events that was frankly outrageous.”
Pate, it seems, was only guilty of being black. At last check, that wasn’t a crime, either.
McAvoy and Sippel face departmental charges and their case has been turned over to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office for consideration of criminal charges — real ones that stick.