Special Report: A city takes on its police union, and a nation is watching

By Reade Levinson and Lisa Girion

ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) – People who realize that he is named a "Tugg," by Silvon Simmons, a nickname that was provided by his parents after he slashes his crib slate and shoved his way out.

Now that he was convicted of attempting to murder an officer, 12 people held his life in his possession.

It was 26 October 2017, and in what Simmons felt was a slow motion, jurors applied for a courthouse in Monroe County.

Some glanced at him and looked away rapidly.

Now for this time, 36, Simmons had all put in line.

He declined a plea bargain and had been jailed for 18 months, even if losing would contribute to life in jail.

In April 2016, the Rochester police officers fired him three times from behind his body only carried two ballots from the night.

Simmons had first been shot at him by the officer, Josep Ferrigno.

In the encounter, Ferrigno was not hurt.

"Please, the foreman would rise," said the clerk.

"Why do the suspect, on first count of the complaint, tried a degraded assassination of the residents of the State of New York versus Silvon Simmons, believe you guilty or not guilty?

"Don't be culpable."

There were three extra payments.

Yet the comfort of Simmons was so evident, that it seemed as though he would faint.

Count 2: The police officer's tentative, aggravated assault.

"Don't be culpable."

List 3: Criminal weapons for the intention of utilizing them illegally. Count 3:

"Don't be culpable."

The lying ass police didn't trust them!

Thought Simmons.

All those jurors, I'm happy to hug.

Count 4: criminal arms not owned in the home or company. And then count 4:

"The guilt." "Guilty."

He was fascinated by Simmons.

The count did not get as severe as the first two but stayed in jail for up to 15 years.

He was released by Judge Christopher Ciaccio before the sentence was given.

Simmons couldn't speak, bogged down by what had just happened.

He demonstrated his recognition by replicating his knuckles on the table of defence.

He thought his name would be explained.

He came close. He came close.

Given no previous convictions, his prosecutor Elizabeth Riley advised him he will potentially be sentenced to a period of 3-1/2 years.

Riley was mistaken, as it turned out.


When Simmons remained in custody pending sentencing, in this northwestern town of New York, demonstrators kept revealing and reforming policing procedure, which they felt was unjust.

Simmons' hurdle will be the same: a blue wall.

Rochester's police department has embraced a powerful police association and state labour legislation and since the 1960s, attempts have been shot to provide city people with more input on how politicians are disciplined and their duties are performed.

As the case Simmons happened, shifting stakeholders of the neighborhood will be the motivating factor behind the police department to achieve considerable civilian influence.

In the midst of decades of labour bargaining and court fighting, the city will succeed in clawing back its control.

The city council of Rochester is still arguing against the union in arbitration.

If it gains, this case could have a legal framework – and act as a national blueprint for civil monitoring – for other New York municipals.

Nearly one year after shooting Simmons, in February 2017, activists issued an inquiry into 1,173 potentially unnecessary force investigation by the Rochester Police Department.

The analysis showed that in only 3 percent of instances, the agency failed and did not dismiss any employees.

The authors concluded that the Locust Club, the police union, dictated basically how punishment was treated by the community.

The report stated that the police are codified."

"A single action of a policeman will destroy Lives.

The police are not liable to the people, though who pay their wages."

"How might we be?" "How might we be?"

Michael Mazzeo, president of the police association, said the conclusion could not be more incorrect.

The leader who represents the mayor' s gratification and who is vulnerable to political interference, he said, determines discipline.

"I hear how strong a union is all the time but I can't hire anybody and I can't prevent anybody from being fired," Mazzeo said.

"How powerful are we then?

Mazzeo claimed that the analysis was focused on fraudulent, unreliable and faulty results.

During the past 10 to 15 years, Mazzeo said that after an audit in the force, he heard of at least 10 officers who retired or were fired.

The Mazzeo tally could not be verified by Reuters.

The "50-A" statute in New York prohibited police archives from being published during the Simmons appeal.

In order to enhance transparency and police confidence, state legislatures revoked 50-A in June this year.

Certain unions battle court divulgations.

Reuters discovered that almost half of them including Rochester, did not require legal interference in order to hold those personnel documents private, after analyzing 100 police union contracts in some of America's biggest cities.

Their contracts compel police forces to remove administrative histories or seal employees over a span of six months in some counties.

For police chiefs trying to restructure or deny them and federal agencies searching for patterns of violence within a police office, the detection of problematic officers is complicated. This makes things difficult.

Many of America's cities have sought to exercise stronger powers over their officers.

Yet in large part, they are hindered by hurdles outside their control: state labour rules regulating collective bargaining.

These regulations and legal judgments in certain States prohibit cities from implementing improvements without the consent of the union.

Silvon Simmons was ready to report to court for sentence as the Rochester representatives were debating if and how to go on.

"I'm not making any feeling"

His defender in public, Riley, had disconcerted the decision of the jurors.

Jurors had concluded that the night Officer Ferrigno shot Simmons with a Ruger gun.

The gun was discovered on the foot from which Simmons bleededed, police said.

The jury found that Riley failed to learn.

None of the DNA or fingerprints of Simmons was on a knife or on an empty shell inside the space of the Ruger.

No connection to Simmons was found on the weapon.

He couldn't see much of importance when he chose his vehicle, his house and the Impala he rode the night.

Several attorneys told Reuters in their first public statements that the gun ownership decision was a concession in order to save Simmons from a worse fate.

When arguments started, the jury said on why Simmons, a Black man, wanted to kill Ferrigno, a white cop, had broken roughly along racial lines.

At the end, jurors claimed, Simmons had not shot at an officer, they didn't believe.

But the source of a firearm which the officers claimed they discovered close Simmons confounded them.

From the beginning, General Motors engineer Ralph Hay said he realized he hadn't attempted to murder a policeman in his own backyard.

Not with his relatives at home and not with a pistol that had just one bullet, according to the cops.

"Would you please die?

"Hay, a Black juror of three," Reuters said.

"There's no point in it."

Robert Marcell, retired manager of Rochester's Eastman Kodak firm, said that he thought that Ferrigno was surprised by anything but not a weapon.

Marcell, one of the eight white jurors, said It's not to say he was lying, but he's been mistaken."

Another Rochester cop, Sam Giancursio, testified: "It was somewhat unbelievable to have a bullet passed through his ear," said Marcell.

"This story was not hanging together."

The jury said that at least two gun owners who knew guns were included.

They persuaded many others that the Ruger was not shot that night with an empty casing in the room.


Skepticism has been further compounded by the absence of a Ruger bullet.

The idea was that Simmons put down the arm and ran fast.

"The gun was not gone, I don't think."

Other jurors had problems with this notion: why was his DNA found on it if Simmons had thrown the weapon?

Why did the authorities not examine his shirt or hands for the traces of gunpowder as demanded by Simmons?

Joseph D'Angelo, white prosecutor who sat in the jury, "It was pissed off as citizens to plead for that man to have the rubbish tested but it wasn't done."

"The fact that there was no physical evidence was enormous for us."

Jurors have lost faith in testimony from ShotSpotter, a Rochester Police Department acoustic tracker that recorded picking up five gunshots, said Marcell.

"As we peeled the onion's layers away," he said, "more difficult was it to trust."

ShotSpotter also checked the sound research many times this night after Rochester police hearings.

None will share the conclusions with Reuters either through the corporation and the police force.


D'Angelo, a consultant for Westlaw, the Thomson Reuters' Legal Knowledge Service, said that judges were contemplating the likelihood of a pistol being planted.

Still, he said at the end of the day, they denied the thinking as too conspiratory."

"The hell the cops could have planting this we could not figure out said d'Angelo.

But how did the arms come in?

Some jurors felt it was appropriate for Simmons to carry it.

Finally, Simmons was condemned by the party on one of the smaller weapons.

They assumed – incorrectly – that the penalty was not much greater than that he had already completed for the 18 months.

And others were tired and eager to go home to get to their jobs following two weeks of evidence, jurors reported.

Hay recalled this as a Simmons bargain.

He was concerned the prosecutor would order a mistrial if the jurors did not make a decision.

If so, we would like to see a fresh batch of jurors