I have been meaning to blog on this for a while now, but things with both Green Rochester and Benny Warr have been so hectic that I haven’t had a chance to sit down to collect my thoughts.
For those who do not know the situation, on May 1st, Benny Warr was on Jefferson Avenue when members of the Rochester Police Department decided to clear the public sidewalks of everyone. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. There was no crisis; marshall law was not enacted. The police do this in neighborhoods that are mostly inhabited by people of color. But we will get to get to that a bit further down.
Benny was on Jefferson Avenue in his electric wheelchair when the police told him to leave. He decided to go to a friend’s house via the bus. Seems that waiting for the bus was not acceptable to these police officers, so to get Benny off Jefferson Avenue, they decided to arrest him. Again, we will get to the problem with this further down.
Some of you may know that in my work with ADAPT, I have been arrested participating in civil disobedience. Most of my brothers and sisters in ADAPT have disabilities and many use wheelchairs. I have seen a number of police agencies, both local and federal, arrest people in wheelchairs. I have never, ever seen a police officer use this technique. (Yes, this is a link to the higher resolution video of the arrest)
Benny ended up in the hospital with broken ribs and other injuries.
If you follow Green Rochester, you know that all of the candidates have been working on behalf of Benny and his family. We were involved in the planning of the rally of support that happened last Saturday and from this incident, we will continue to be involved. Not only that, we will be using this incident and others that occur on a daily basis to continue to mold our collective and individual platforms to deal with the problems we are having with our public employees who we pay to “protect and serve”. You can help by signing this petition.
So what problems are we having?
- The Rochester Police Department is targeting neighborhoods of color. Not only is this racist and a violation of human and civil rights, but it is ineffective. It doesn’t work!
- There are officers in the RPD who behave, both on the job and when off duty as if the laws they are sworn to uphold do not apply to them.
- The Chief of Police continues to use ineffective and violent policing techniques and has perpetuated a culture of lawlessness amongst the rank and file.
- This culture of lawlessness has meant that the RPD refuses to admit when its officers have made mistakes on the job. (Two warnings: the audio of this link start automatically and the Chief is pretty disgusting in this interview)
Green Rochester is not about complaining. We’re about solving problems. So when elected to City Council I will work to:
- Create a truly independent Police Review Board with subpoena power that does not answer to the Chief of Police.
- I will work with the Mayor and police union to better handle police officers who break the law.
- I will work with my fellow City Council Members to create better economic opportunities for all of our citizens to reduce crime.
As this election season rolls along, all of the members of Green Rochester will be sharing ideas on how to improve our police department. And we want to hear YOUR ideas as well. You can leave them as comments here or on our Facebook page.
We will also continue to be active with the movement that is forming around the Benny Warr incident. Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved with that as well.