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RPD pays out to alleged abuse victim

by Tori Martinez - Managing Editor
Wed, Sep 13th 2017 12:00 am

If you’re up-to-date on your police brutality awareness, particularly in Rochester, you might have seen the Democrat and Chronicle’s article, “City pays $125,000 to man allegedly choked by police officer,” by Gary Craig. As the title suggests, Rochester made a pretty large settlement with DKuan Webb, a man who was allegedly choked during an arrest by Rochester Police Department officer, Thomas Rodriguez. 

A video from a body-worn camera, which has not been released to the public, apparently captured the arrest and raised concerns about whether Rodriguez put Webb in an improper chokehold, which nearly stopped him from breathing.

Under the settlement, the city and police department apparently did not admit to any wrongdoing, Craig wrote. The settlement came five days after Webb’s attorney filed a notice that Webb would be suing the city for false arrest, false imprisonment, putting Webb in a chokehold and forcibly throwing Webb to the ground.

The story goes like this, according to a recent Democrat and Chronicle article by Craig titled, “Charges against Rochester man in choking incident dismissed”: a number of people were arrested on April 14 in the East end of Rochester due to outdoor fights; Webb and his brother were arrested as well. 

According to court papers filed by Webb’s attorney, Webb claims he and his brother were leaving the area peacefully, but were stopped by police anyway. 

One of the officers allegedly yelled at Webb’s brother to move faster, whose response was to hold up his cell phone in the officer’s direction, which I assume means he was trying to take a video. The officer then apparently maced him. 

The court papers said that Rodriguez ended up arresting Webb outside of his brother’s car, and Rodriguez allegedly told Webb that he should have left when he could. Police say Webb tried resisting, but Webb says he didn’t. 

The papers say Rodriguez then put his right arm around Webb’s neck and began cutting off Webb’s airway. 

Without the video, I cannot assess the situation myself, and because there was a settlement, the video will probably never be released. We’ll see as time goes on, but I have high doubts. What I do have faith in, however, is that the city and police are lying by not admitting to doing anything wrong. 

Besides RPD’s long track record of excessive and unnecessary force, why would the city pay some guy more than $100,000 if the department had done nothing wrong? Why wouldn’t they let Webb take them to court? If he didn’t have a serious case against them, why settle? The cherry on top is that the settlement prohibits Webb, his attorney and any city officials from discussing the settlement. How convenient, right? 

I mean, if I was the City of Rochester or RPD, I’d settle for $125,000 if it meant I could shut Webb up, especially if the only part of the settlement that can be talked about is the fact that the city and police department “did nothing wrong.” 

It’s also really shady that the settlement happened less than a week after the city heard that Webb was planning to sue.

Aside from all these unanswered questions, there’s another aspect that makes me not believe them and that’s a statement Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said back in April, at the time this situation was fresh. 

“The video is disturbing,” Warren said during a news conference where she announced the officer's suspension. “It does appear the individual was handcuffed and choked ... His civil rights could have been been violated.”

What changed? Did it simply “appear” that Webb was handcuffed and choked back in April, but by the time July rolled around, you decided it was just that? It only “appeared” that way? OK ...

I’ve been following the stories of people who, within the past few years, have claimed that RPD has used excessive force against them. I wrote an article almost exactly a year ago about a video released by a city resident Clarence Thompson that showed a woman getting arrested in her own yard because she didn’t listen to an officer when he told her to leave (you don’t have to if you’re on your own or public property). 

Thompson was then arrested for obstructing governmental administration because of the video. In my article “Community in question: Rochester police chief justifies brutality” from September 27, I wrote about Thompson and past cases where RPD arrested someone they shouldn’t have, usually charging them with obstruction or disorderly conduct.

I haven’t yet seen a settlement as large as Webb’s, which makes me believe that this video must have been bad enough. Conveniently in most of these situations where RPD’s force is questioned, their body cameras were never turned on, which means the case doesn’t go far or doesn’t result in a settlement because there’s just not enough evidence. 

I think a settlement is a cheap way for the city and RPD to back out of having to admit to any wrongdoing or to release the video. It’s great that Webb got $125,000, but I’m sure he deserved more. I’m just so sick and tired of RPD not having to be held accountable. 

The officers either don’t have enough evidence because they didn’t turn their body cameras on, or they apparently offer a decent amount of money as a way to shut their victims up. Not that I blame Webb for choosing that option; why wouldn’t you take the money and run? 

I’ll probably die before we ever see RPD Chief Michael Ciminelli or a Rochester mayor speak up against RPD’s excessive force, but I’ll continue to bring awareness about the injustices that too many people have to face in our nearby city.

 

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