Public defender highlights Silvon Simmons case for conversation about police reform

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Monroe County Public Defender’s Office wants to bring the Silvon Simmons case, among others, back into the public eye in light of recent Black Lives Matter protests.

In 2016, Simmons was shot three times by a Rochester police officer, who says he thought Simmons had fired a gun.

Simmons said his case was not “the first, or the tenth, or the twentieth, or the hundredth, they’ve been doing this.”

“That’s why it’s so hard to change, and that’s why it keeps happening,” said Simmons.

Simmons was accused of assault and trying to murder a police officer. He was acquitted of those charges.

Elizabeth Riley, a special assistant public defender with the Monroe County public defender’s office, believes Simmons’ case is an example of aggressive policing, especially against black men.

“There is just a carelessness out there, and a mentality against young black men that is pervasive,” argued Riley, “I see it in my work constantly, I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and I see it day in and day out.”

Mike Mazzeo, the president of the Rochester Locust Club police union, agrees some reform is necessary. Mazzeo defends the officers’ actions in the Simmons case, arguing the officer had to act quickly.

“No officer ever wants to be in that situation,” Mazzeo said of the case. “It’s the last thing you ever possibly want to occur and happen. That’s the reality of what policework is.”

Simmons was held in jail awaiting trial for more than a year, only to be found not guilty.

He says the time to reform policework – and the justice system – is now.

“They can’t talk about it,” said Simmons. “They’ve got to really do it.”

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