News & Opinion » News

City makes Rochester police officer disciplinary files public

By

The city of Rochester on Thursday released disciplinary files for 118 police officers who have been reprimanded on the job — a records dump that has been highly anticipated since the civil unrest of last summer.

In making the files public in the form of a database on the city's website, the administration of Mayor Lovely Warren claimed that the list covered every officer currently on the Police Department's roster who has such a record on file.

The database does not include officers who were subject of complaints, but rather only if the complaints were substantiated.

Warren originally announced plans to create a public Rochester Police Department disciplinary records database in July, when state lawmakers repealed Section 50a of New York's civil service law. The repeal meant that records were now available to the public through Freedom of Information Law requests.

Many of the state's larger municipalities expected a flood of requests for the information. Rochester, alongside Utica and New York City, opted to create databases to respond preemptively to the requests.

"It has been our goal to comply with the change in state law ensuring the public’s access to these records,” Warren said, in a statement. “I supported the repeal of 50a because our residents deserve to know what happens when they file a complaint. These matters are taken very seriously by our administration."



Many high-profile cases will not be found in the database. For example, the findings of an internal investigation into the 2016 shooting of Silvon Simmons by Officer Joseph Ferrigno are not in the database. But records resulting from a 2013 complaint against Ferrigno are.

In that instance, the department sustained allegations against Ferrigno that he picked up a 13-year-old boy who he'd ordered to leave a corner of Jefferson Avenue and Clifton Street, where he was reportedly loitering, and dropped him off on King Street about half of a mile away. 

The teen told Ferrigno he did not know where he was or how to get home. Ferrigno told him "find your way back."

The majority of the files outline procedural missteps and "avoidable" motor vehicle accidents. Taurean Cumberbatch received reprimands in 2016 and 2017 for driving into a fence during a chase and backing into another cop car, respectively. In 2019, Jessica Mulholland pleaded guilty to an avoidable on-duty accident with a patrol car; documents noted it was her fourth such accident in three years. She acknowledged the infraction and agreed to one day of unpaid suspension.

And in September 2020, Sgt. Hoang Kavanaugh was reprimanded for appearing on Bob Lonsberry's show on WHAM 1180 and commenting on Mayor Lovely Warren and the Rochester Police Department.

City officials had planned for the database to go live by the end of 2020, but their plans were delayed by a Rochester Police Locust Club lawsuit, which resulted in an order from  State Supreme Court Justice Ann Marie Taddeo directing the city to hold off from releasing the database.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in December, the Locust Club sought time for all officers to review their records that would be released through the public database. The union said it was specifically concerned that personal information about the officers could be made public. In its petition, the Locust Club noted that when President Michael Mazzeo's disciplinary file was released following a records request, his home address and social security number were not redacted.

The database does not include the complete personnel files of all RPD officers, but rather only disciplinary files where RPD's professional standards section had made a determination. Under state law, complete personnel files can still be accessed through a FOIL request.

"By sharing these important records, our residents can be confident that their complaints are not only heard, but reviewed; and when our officers are found to be not in compliance with the Department’s policies and procedures, they are held accountable," Warren said.

At the same time it launched the database, the city also released additional body-worn camera footage of the Jan. 31 incident where an RPD officer handcuffed and pepper sprayed a 9 year old girl. The 90-minute video is available to watch here.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.

Tags