ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Local activist group Free the People Roc is suing Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, and area law enforcement agencies.
The class-action lawsuit demands a jury trial for violations against the U.S. Constitution, including violations of First and 14th Amendment rights.
It alleges the Rochester Police Department has used excessive force against people of color for decades. The lawsuit also claims the response by the RPD, Monroe County Sheriff's Office, and New York State Police during the protests after Daniel Prude's death was chaotic.
The nearly 100-page class action lawsuit is filed against Warren, the city of Rochester, former Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary, specific members of its police department, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter and certain deputies, Monroe County, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, and numerous others.
“This class action lawsuit seeks to fundamentally change policing in the city of Rochester," said class-action lawsuit plaintiff Nicholas Robertson.
He is one of several plaintiffs named in the massive complaint who gathered at City Hall.
“The RPD, Monroe County Sheriffs, and New York State Troopers have made Rochester the face of police brutality and terror throughout this country,” said video journalist Reynaldo DeGuzman.
Lawyers and plaintiffs also addressed the media during a Zoom news conference.
“Thousands of people from every corner of this county took to the streets to demand accountability,” said Free the People ROC's Stanley Martin, who is also a plaintiff in the suit. “But here in Rochester, even while the world watched, city leaders unleashed militarized police on demonstrators. They authorized, condoned, and justified daily acts of violence and harm against their own residents.”
Two-time combat veteran, Devorah Chatman, is also a plaintiff.
“I spent six years fighting for this country that doesn’t really fight for us," Chatman said. "And I have kids to look after... before my young boys walk out and become a statistic of the RPD, I would rather fight and put myself on the line as I did in Iraq and Afghanistan for this country that does not recognize me as, I guess, a citizen.”
Among the demands, the suit seeks systemic reforms, monetary awards, and calls for a federal monitor to oversee Rochester Police Department reforms.
“This lawsuit is different because it lays out the history, going back decades, more detail than any other lawsuit that's ever been filed against the Rochester Police Department," said attorney Elliot Shields.
Joe Prude said he stands in solidarity with those filing the suit. He is the brother of Daniel Prude, who died in police custody a year ago.
“My brother died for no reason," said Prude. "And I can’t sit back and I won't sit back, this pain is starting to be unbearable."
“Enough is enough," said Martin. "We bring this lawsuit to bring this lawsuit to bring the city and RPD to account and demand real long-lasting systemic change."
“We are asking the court to ensure that there is real accountability and change in the RPD," said Robertson.
Being a class action lawsuit, the door is open for the possibility of more plaintiffs joining the suit.
Court paperwork for the lawsuit can be read below.