Anti-Gay Cops Back on Streets in Rochester, NY
April 9th, 2008
When a gay v. police dispute arises it is difficult to know where the truth lies. Based on a long history of abuse, I am often tempted to doubt the claims of officers and to believe gay people, but of course that is not a fail-safe method. Nonetheless, there is a story out of Rochester, NY that disturbs me. While all facts may not be known, there are some things are are not in dispute.
In June 2007 there were five folks walking home from a bar when they were attacked by another group by fist, boot, and iron pipe. They believe that the reason of the attack was because some of the group was gay.
They did what one is supposed to do in this situation; they called the police.
When the officers arrived, they let the attackers go and became hostile to the victims. They refused to take their statements, ordered them to disperse, used homophobic slurs, and arrested some of the victims for disorderly conduct.
When the story broke, the police chief indicated that “mistakes had been made”. But the police union rep continued to defend the actions of the officers.
“This is an example of cops being persecuted for political reasons,” said Mike Mazzeo, a Rochester Police Locust Club union official.
Since that time,
Police later identified the suspects, but did not file charges.
None of the accusers testified before the grand jury, which declined to indict any of the suspects or officers.
The accusers have filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging their civil rights were violated.
From the words of the police union representative, it’s clear that officers in Rochester do not consider it a crime to beat gay people. But insisting that the officers protect them from attack, that’s an criminal offense.
A local television station, 13WHAM, engaged in a campaign to discredit the victims, culminating in an “exclusive” in which they question whether there was a hate crime. They insinuate that arresting the victims was fully justified.
13WHAM News has obtained an internal police department document into last year’s alleged anti-gay hate crime on South Goodman Street. It says there was no hate crime, and raises questions as to whether department leaders misled the public.
Four of the officers were suspended during investigation. And although no conclusions have been made, today we get a hint as to whether there will be any punishment. From the “alleged”-happy 13WHAM:
The four Rochester Police Department officers who were suspended for the way they handled an alleged gay bashing will return to work on Tuesday.
As for the victims of the gay bashing that the officers arrested instead of their attackers?
Two of the alleged victims were arrested by officers the night of the incident and charged with disorderly conduct. Alexander Terrance pleaded guilty. Josh Lieberman is awaiting trial. A third man, Peter Schmitt, received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.
Lieberman was supposed to go on trial last week. John DiMarco, his attorney, told the judge that the prosecution may be withholding exculpatory evidence. DiMarco said he obtained a letter from Chief Moore to one of the suspended officers. DiMarco said that letter indicates the officer did not have probable cause to arrest the alleged victims. DiMarco wants to know more about how the chief came to that conclusion. The evidence he is requesting could include portions of the PSS investigation, and grand jury testimony.
“In the context of this case, my client is adamant about his lack of criminal actions,” DiMarco said.
The motto of the Rochester Police Department is
“Serving With Pride”
I would remind the officers of the Rochester police force that pride is what one earns by doing the right thing. When it isn’t earned, it’s just arrogance.