Lawsuit calls for independent oversight of Rochester Police Department reforms

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A lawsuit filed against the City of Rochester and a number of RPD officers Thursday accuses the officers of using excessive force, and calls on the city to enact reforms.

The lawsuit stems from a May, 2018 arrest. The three plaintiffs claim they were walking along Monroe Avenue near Meigs Street when they attempted to pass by the officers who were making an arrest.

According to court paperwork, Officer Michael Stephens grabbed one of the men, Craig Puritt, “without cause or justification,” pushed him, and punched him in the face. Officer Michael Munior and Sergeant Bryant Johnson then placed Puritt in a headlock and choked him. After putting him in handcuffs, Stephens punched him again “multiple times in the body” and pepper sprayed him “directly in the eyes from within one foot.”

The court filing goes on to say the two other plaintiffs, Anthony Hall and Shamell Killings, witnessed the arrest and tried to record it on their cell phones. It says Stephens knocked the phone out of Killings’ hand and “struck him multiple times in his right knee—on which he was wearing a large, visible knee brace due to a preexisting injury.”

According to court paperwork, Stephens also attempted to put Hall’s phone in a garbage bin, punched Hall in the face, hit him with a baton, and pepper sprayed him.

Puritt, Killings, and Hall were charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration. Their arrest was recorded on the officers’ body cameras and the city’s blue light cameras, and those charges were dismissed.

The lawsuit alleges Stephens should not have been a patrol officer at the time of the arrest due to “a long history of using excessive force and seriously injuring people.”

The plaintiffs are calling on the city and the RPD to draw up new guidelines for investigating use-of-force incidents. They are also calling on a federal monitor to act as independent oversight in enacting those reforms.

Read the court documents:

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