Family and supporters of Christopher Pate react to RPD officer suspensions

Aug 29, 2018

Sandra Pate, Christopher Pate's mother
Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

Supporters of Christopher Pate, a man who was allegedly assaulted by two members of the Rochester Police Department, gathered to respond to the city's actions against those two officers.

The Rev. Lewis Stewart stood with Pate, his mother Sandra and a number of supporters to address the suspension of the two officers without pay, after they stopped and allegedly beat Pate on the street this May.

Stewart says the disciplinary actions taken against Officers Spencer McAvoy and Michael Sipple were appropriate, but that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

"It forces us to look closely at police culture, or the culture of policing, and compels us to ask the question: What is it about this culture that other police officers, who are seemingly honest and possess integrity, remain silent and even defend the evil acts of their brother and sister officers?"

He believes the body camera footage should be released to the public immediately and says while this is a small victory, it is not a time to rest.

Stewart says he is optimistic that this is a turning point for the department, but it brings up more questions.

"What is being done to weed out officers who are racist, misogynistic and homophobic? How are these behaviors being addressed? What is being done at the academy level to provide anti-racism and education training?"

Stewart says they recognize that many officers live up to their oath, but that a systemic problem does exist.

Pate's mother, Sandra, says this incident made her feel broken.

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

"I’m very hurt; very, very disappointed. And have really bad, mixed feelings about law enforcement. I know we need protection, I know we need law officers to maintain the law. We need them. As part of society, we need them. But we don’t need them to brutalize us and to mistreat us and to hurt us."

Speaking on Christopher Pate’s behalf, Stewart says Pate has double vision in one eye after the alleged assault and is seeing a surgeon this week. He has also been attending trauma counseling.

Moving forward, Stewart says they are eager to see how District Attorney Sandra Doorley handles the case and whether criminal charges against the officers are pursued.

President of the Rochester Police Locust Club Mike Mazzeo is reacting to the suspensions.

While he questions how thorough the investigation is, he says he and Reverend Stewart do share a common want for justice to prevail.

"He wants justice, I want justice. Justice either for Mr. Pate or justice for our members. But in the end we want the truth and justice to prevail and we all share that."

But Mazzeo says he also but also wants people to consider the officers

It’s important to understand what was on the minds of these officers when they were making this stop. And what was the information they had."

Mazzeo says accountability is important, but a message of discipline doesn’t always make improvements to the problem.