• Press statement on the Medical Examiner’s report on Richard Davis’ Death

    April 1, 2016

    The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s report on the cause of Mr. Davis’ death places the responsibility solely on the Rochester Police Department and consequently the city of Rochester.

    Rev. Lewis Stewart, surrounded by supporters and family of Richard Davis, talks to the press

    Rev. Lewis Stewart talks to the press. Members of Richard Davis’ family are on his right.

    The use of tasers has been very controversial.  It has been touted as a non-lethal tool by law enforcement for subduing individuals, but in fact, it is a lethal weapon.

    Nationally, during this year there has been a total of 47 fatalities, to date, caused by the use of taser technology.

    When tasers were first introduced, it was thought they really could be used without causing any harm.  However, we know how deadly these electronic control weapons are when used on subjects with cocaine or alcohol in their blood, a predisposed heart condition and/or psychiatric issues.

    Moreover, if officers are untrained, and have not followed certain protocols, are uncertified or abusive, the use of these tasers may also result in death of the victim.

    In light of Mr. Davis’ demise as a result of the use of a taser, we call again for the following:

    • Make ample and judicious use of the Emotionally Disturbed Response Team especially when the subject is unarmed.
    • When the subject is unarmed, it is best to use de-escalation techniques. Bring in a negotiator contain the situation and save lives.
    • Provide for more officers to receive training when interacting with emotionally disturbed persons.

    Mr. Davis was unarmed.   He did not possess a firearm nor a knife.  Yet, 50,000 volts coursed through his body, shocking his heart and killing him.  His death is tragically typical for many other deaths following the use of a taser by the police.  Would it not have been more cautious for the officer to wait for backup and support instead of reacting aggressively?

    Mr. Davis is gone.  How do we obtain justice for him and his family?

    Clearly, the city and city officials are already siding with law enforcement.

    Certainly, the District Attorney is going to manipulate and guide the Grand Jury into a decision of no indictment against the police officer involved.  The decision has already been tainted.

    We have very little faith in a grand jury system which always sides with the police officers nearly 100% of the time, no matter how egregious some of these officers behavior may be.

    In the final analysis, we need an independent investigator from the State Attorney General’s office who will look into this case rationally and has no connection with the local police nor the District Attorney’s office.  We have placed a call and are awaiting a response.

    In conclusion, this specific case goes beyond just the police officer involved.  There is a larger picture.

    • A police culture which is always aggressive against people of color and mired in certain racial perceptions.
    • A system which develops new and sophisticated weaponry designed to incapacitate, disable and kill, and this weaponry is being used among communities of color. Many of these companies, such as Taser are solely about the profit margin.   They are no different than the gun manufacturers.
    • A grand jury, district attorney, law enforcement – judicial nexus which will always find in favor of the police against the victims of police aggressive force.

    Sandra Doorley and others are now engaging in splitting legal hairs between when is a homicide a homicide and when is a murder a murder.  They are playing fast and loosely with legalities instead of admitting the truth.

    This is emphatically hypocritical and ridiculous.  A man is dead, and the Medical Examiner ruled it as a homicide, a murder, a killing brought on by the use of a taser by a law enforcement officer.

    Don’t con us.  Don’t spit in my face and the face of this family and community and tell us it’s a spring rain.

    Admit that there is culpability on the part of the Rochester Police Department.  Be honest.

    The Police Executive Research Forum has stated in their guidelines about tasers:   “that tasers should not be seen as an all-purpose weapon that takes the place of de-escalation techniques.”

    We need to make a decision and decide what kind of society we desire to be.

    Thank you.

    Rev. Lewis Stewart

  • Police-Community Relations News

    We’d like you to know about these UCLM activities.

    Rev. Stewart will meet with Rochester Police Department Chief Michael Ciminelli on Friday, December 11, 2015 to discuss the Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team.

    The Police-Community Relations Committee of UCLM and the Coalition for Police Reform are researching a model for an independent Police-Community Advisory Board. The committee has looked at several models across the nation however, the Syracuse and the New York City processes look viable.

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