Special Report: A cop shoots a Black man, and a police union flexes its muscle
By Reade Levinson and Lisa Girion
ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) – The Rochester policeman had made at least 23 brutality charges in almost nine years, before Officer Joseph Ferrigno fired a Black man from behind.
One of them came from a female who claimed that the burly hockey player Ferrigno had slammed her to the floor and broke one of its ribs.
Another was from a guy with one knee, dropped by Ferrigno and two other officers from his wheelchair on a bus stop.
All this was sponsored by Ferrigno by the Police Force of Rochester and the Locust Club, the central police union.
The officer was never prosecuted for unnecessary force on his own behalf.
Then came April 1, 2016, when Ferrigno took the most fateful move of his career – alone in his squad car on a sweet and moonless night.
During two hours of his change, Ferrigno discovered a Chevrolet Impala, the same type of a Black man who was convicted a few days ago of assaulting a woman with a pistol.
Ferrigno pursued for a few blocks without flipping on his overhead lights or sirene, and then saw the driver retract in a driveway on a suburban lane.
The officer thrust before the driveway, switched on the headlights of his cruiser and conditioned the Impala.
He's seen inside two Black males.
In a sworn confession, Ferrigno drew the pistol of his Glock, leapt and yelled, "stay in the car."
The moment is remembered by Silvon Simmons, the passenger in the Impala.
He didn't hear any warning, Reuters said.
He couldn't see something blocking the short driveway, blinded by a spotlight.
The guy sought by the police was not a Simmons, a 34-year-old machinery dealer.
The owner of the vehicle, who lived next door, was not.
They both clarified later that they came from a visit to the supermarket.
As Simmons left the Impala, he said to Reuters that he was frightened by the figure that emerged: a fantastic figure who was chasing him with a sword in his side.
Simmons turned toward the back door of the building, where he lived with his boyfriend and three boys, and in a community where gunplaying is normal.
Ferrigno, 33, was searching for an Impala driver.
However the cop drove over the driver and followed the darkness of Simmons.
Suddenly he saw a "white flash" and a "loud bang" to Ferrigno's detectives. Simmons "was shooting me" said the official, "and I had been afraid of going on until he gave me." Simmons said.
Ferrigno fired four shot, three times struck Simmons – his back, fuck and his right leg. Simmons hit him three times.
A second cop came instantly, and the two came to the grass-sanging Black guy.
Later on, he saw that, Ferrigno told the detectives: "The suspect's weapon at the ground near him." Simmons claimed he didn't shoot a pistol later and even hadn't owned it.
The area was swarming with police.
There were at least four policemen in the union - including a detective who headed the SIMMON probe.
Locust Club Chairman Michael Mazzeo has arrived easily through the boss of the union.
Prior to fleeing, Ferrigno called for two things: counsel and union president. He was taken to the precinct and subsequently sent home to inform detectives that he was shaky and in a state of shock."
Simmons was bound and put into an ambulance nude by paramedics who tended his wounds.
While Simmons took three ballots, at least 65 police accounts mention Ferrigno as the suspect.
Simmons background, after Ferrigno discovered the Impala nearly two years later in a courthouse, provides a thorough anatomy of the strategies and initiatives that contributed to widespread demonstrations around the US.
The killings and their effects are often emblematic of the obstacles that many American cities are dealing with while seeking to restructure their police departments.
Elected officials sacrificed most of their powers in the leadership of the police department in Rochester, New York's third largest village, toward a powerful union.
Officials are working here today to resolve enormous legal challenges to restoring some of the strength.
A civil agency with the authority to prosecute cops is being set up by the City council.
The syndicate is struggling against campaigns, representing about 700 of the 900 workers of the agency.
In his favour, a court has agreed.
In certain countries in America, where – with just a few cases – officers are left to police themselves, they are battling for better monitoring of populations.
This willingness to stop external criticism comes from collective negotiations and state labour rules.
Over the last five years, Reuters evaluated the labor agreements negotiated or expanded by 100 of the largest cities in the world.
Most – 88 – set specific limitations on the prosecution of civil lawsuits or the discipline of police.
And with police facing strong national pressure, cops recently secured additional protections in several cities that made surveillance even more complicated.
Such security helps officers, including Ferrigno, to stay on the scene with records of brutality charges.
In addition to their preferential contracts, socialists exploited state labour legislation to compel cities to negotiate wider policy for departments.
They successfully challenged improvements to the assignment of officials who monitor traffic, who archive the facts, and who respond to 911 calls.
Via laws and judicial cases, unions have advanced into 'true governance and politics' departments,' Chuck Wexler, Chief Executive Officer of the Police Executive Research Forum, a think tank that supports chiefs in Washington, D.C.
Like several towns, Rochester's politicians bear the responsibility for this challenge.
In the wake of a crisis in the eighties, several jurisdictions sought disciplinary rights in return for freezing police pay.
Now they are also losing as the cities seek to reverse power.
In regard to State labour regulations, national courts have ruled that cities are forbidden from arbitrarily modifying police discipline practices or procedures.
Furthermore, both Republicans and workers' Democrats of law and order in several states approved "bills of law" that broaden cops' security beyond that which most workers in the government receive.
Mazzeo of the Locust Club and other bosses of the Union claim to defend civil servants who have responded to a risky call.
A community with double the national average violent crime rate, Rochester cops patrol.
Since 1950, the union reports have revealed that two policemen from Rochester were killed on the job.
The last came in 2014 when Officer Daryl Pierson was shot and killed during a search on a foot pursuit.
If officers charging with crime may not protect themselves, however the disruption of a cop's actions at first sight will seem like, they will be sacrificed to a crowd, syndical leaders claim.
Cities should rely on improved policy and preparation, they say, and without union buy-in, reforming security officers would not be effective.
However, Wexler, the counselor to the chiefs of police, says that any group loses in today's battle.
In the mobile age, the sluggish speed of reacting to citizen complaints regarding police activity poses a greater danger for union officials, community representatives and citizens.
"These are one incident away from chaos," said Wexler: "every Police Department."
Reuters spoke to scores of individuals and updated thousands of governmental pages for its consideration of the Simmons issue, including police accounts, photos from crime scenes, logs of facts, audio captured records and courtroom evidence.
For this post, Ferrigno could not be interviewed.
A Rochester police officer said that the regulations of the force forbid any of the officials concerned to comment openly about this issue, including Ferrigno.
The shooting by Simmons was not a major deal beyond this 206,000 year old city which has been in tough times as the Eastman Kodak Corporation vanished as the global king of photography.
The case of a white officer – Ferrigno – who fired a Black guy, Simmons – though was the latest chapter in decades of cops-collectiveness among certain local residents.
In July 1964 policemen called police dogs in a neighborhood party in a Black ghetto to apprehend a drunkard, triggered by protests.
Five drug agents allegedly kidnapped, battered and tortured criminals in largely black areas were eventually sued by federal prosecutors in 1993.
One of the acquitted was Mazzeo who, 15 years later, became president of the union.
At least 44 people have been murdered by police officers from Rochester since 1970, a Reuters news analysis reported.
Three hundred died of them.
At least a dozen shooting officers were honored as distinguished or exemplary performance later that year.
One got a key to the area.
In September, the divide between the predominantly white police department and many of the city's citizens – 40% Black – grew ever wider, with demonstrations shining over the treatment of another Black man by police.
Daniel Prude, 41, died during a psychotic breakdown after his conviction in March.
A recording of the arrest became public about five months later.
He was bound and hooded with a nude Prude, while a cop pushed his face into the floor.
The film also amplified problems, with Black citizens frequently enduring the repercussions of the military usage of officers staying essentially unregulated.
Reuters reflected on one crucial topic as he looked at the shooting from Simmons – the alienation of a police force itself.
Again it demonstrated the strength of the storied police union of Rochester.
The Locust Club is named for a kind of wood used in nightsticks, which began as a club for police.
It developed a reputation for rivalry in its early years as a syndicate.