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UCLM members speaking out against RPD once again

The Rev. Lewis Stewart, United Christian Leadership Ministry president.
Max Schulte/WXXI News file photo
The Rev. Lewis Stewart, United Christian Leadership Ministry president.

 The United Christian Leadership Ministry spoke out Monday in response to video footage showing an altercation that led to Rochester Police pepper-spraying a woman in front of her toddler. 

The event happened on Portland Avenue on Feb. 22, but the footage wasn’t released until late last week. 

An officer had stopped the woman on Clifford Avenue because she was accused of shoplifting at a nearby drugstore. She denied stealing anything. When the officer walked away after telling her to wait, she ran away. The officer chased her and pepper-sprayed her outside a Portland Avenue restaurant. Footage from a nearby security camera shows the woman putting her child down, struggling with the officer and the officer slamming her to the ground.

Ministry members are now demanding the investigation and termination of the officers involved in the incident. 

UCLM is an organization that has been consistently advocating for police reform in Rochester. Vice President Dwight Fowler said addressing these situations over and over feels like a merry-go-round.

“We’re going in circles not because we’re not moving forward and making progress," Fowler said, “but because we have entrenched within our Rochester Police Department built-in institutionalized racism.”

Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said Friday that officials in her department are reviewing the incident.

Ministry members are also calling for a Community Public Safety Patrol that would serve to de-escalate police-civilian encounters. Fowler said de-escalation should be emphasized over the use of force.

“African-Americans have been the recipient of brutal force as opposed to simply being confronted by the police officer and engaging in a process where one does not need to get physical unless it is absolutely imperative,” Fowler said.

He said the ministry also believes the woman was innocent of the shoplifting accusation and deserves an apology from the drugstore manager.

“I’m sorry for the unpleasant repulsive behavior that she received as a result for going to a Rite Aid store,” said Fowler.

Fowler says UCLM will continue to advocate for justice in the Rochester community.


April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.