|Rochester, NY Police officer Kevin Flanagan|
September 29, 2012 5:43 PM ET
When it comes to the law, Rochester, NY Police officers Kevin Flanagan, Joel Hasper and Richard Doran, not only have no regard for it, but clearly think, and act as if they are above it.
Whether it's racing up the wrong way on one-way residential streets with no lights or siren on where young children play, or thinking they can re-write New York State law when it comes to stopping and searching innocent citizens, RPD officers Flanagan, Hasper and Doran are not only a danger to the Rochester community, but also a liability to the City of Rochester, NY.
|Rochester, NY Police officer Joel Hasper|
For example, New York State law clearly states that a police officer can not just stop a person on the street, put their hands on that person and search them.
The officer must have reasonable belief that a crime is either being committed, has been committed or will be committed, in order to stop a person and search them.
Well, let's just say that RPD officers Flanagan, Hasper and Doran, don't follow that law.
The three of them stop whomever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.
Flanagan, Hasper and Doran stick together and work the same car beat.
I spent last week covering the trial of Jose Lugo, a Rochester man on trial in Monroe County, NY Court, charged with harassment and assaulting officer Doran.
Lugo, 25, has lived on Flower St., a residential one-way street which runs off North Clinton Ave. on Rochester's east side, with his parents since he was 5 years old.
His grandparents live on Flower St.
His friends live on Flower St.
And that's where he was on April 2, 2012 when RPD officers Kevin Flanagan, Joel Hasper and Richard Doran, raced up Flower St. driving the wrong way, and stopped Lugo, who was walking with two friends.
RPD officer Flanigan, Hasper and Doran, got out of their cars, and immediately grabbed Lugo, brought him over to an RPD cruiser and began to search him.
When Lugo questioned why he was being stopped, they immediately threw him to the ground, where they punched and kicked him, and tasered him at least three times, including two "drive stuns" which is when a taser is applied directly to the skin.
When neighbors on Flower St., including Lugo's aunt, Annette Velazquez, a Rochester City School district employee, who was visting her elderly parents, pleaded with officers to stop beating Lugo, RPD officers turned on them.
RPD officer Benjamin Mitchell shoved Annette Velazquez several times as he yelled to her, "Get in the house!"
When Annette Velazquez told Mitchell that she was going to call Rochester, NY Police Chief James Sheppard, whom she knows personally from having worked with him when Sheppard was the director of security for the Rochester City School district, officer Mitchell confiscated her phone, pepper-sprayed her and placed her under arrest.
Velazquez wasn't the only one pepper-sprayed or arrested.
In fact, a pregnant woman and an elderly woman were also pepper-sprayed.
Officers also took the pregnant woman's phone and arrested her as well.
In an attempt to cover up their unlawful actions, including not only beating Lugo, but confiscating people's cell phones, pepper-spraying and arresting them, the officers charged Lugo with assaulting officer Richard Doran.
Like Lugo's attorney, Monroe County Public defender Sonya Zoughlin told the jury, "They (RPD officers) had to come up with an excuse why someone looks like that."
Zoughlin made those comments in her closing arguments Friday afternoon in Monroe County Court Judge Doug Randall's courtroom, as she showed the jury of 12 and two alternates, photos of a beaten, bloodied Lugo.
But aside from those photos which show Lugo with a badly swollen-shut left eye, as well as multiple bruises and contusions, including prong marks from the taser, perhaps most disturbing was the revealing look at how RPD officers Kevin Flanagan, Joel Hasper and Ricard Doran operate, and what they think of the residents in the communities they patrol.
On cross examination by Zoughlin, Flanagan, Hasper and Doran, who admitted they "work together", and are "always on Flower St. together", all had trouble acknowledging New York State law, when it comes to stops and searches.
Again, in Lugo's case, he was walking down the street, heading to a nearby store with two friends, when officers Flanagan, Hasper and Doran raced up the wrong way of a one-way street and grabbed Lugo as soon as they stepped out of their cars, despite the fact that in their own testimony, all three officers said Lugo never ran away, he was simply walking.
Under direct examination from District Attorney Michael Harrigan, in another attempt to justify their illegal actions, all three officers said that Lugo and his friends were near a known drug house, and may have been trespassing, even though as police officers, they know the law, which states that in order to know if an individual is trespassing or not, the officer has to know who the owner of the property is, in order to know if that individual may have permission to be on that property.
When asked by Lugo's attorney, if they knew who owned the property, each officer replied they did not.
Therefore, there was no way that RPD officers Flanagan, Hasper and Doran could have known if in fact Lugo, or anyone else for that matter, was trespassing.
Officer Kevin Flanagan testified that if someone walking on the sidewalk, steps off the sidewalk and so much as steps on dirt or grass in front of a property, to him that's trespassing.
Under cross examination by Zoughlin, the three officers would not admit that despite there being an old, abandoned home where marijuana is sold, Flower St. is in fact, a residential street where most of the residents are honest, working families with young children, as well as some elderly folks.
One of those elderly Flower St. residents is Ana Davila, who took the stand for the defense Friday afternoon.
Davila said that as she normally does, she was in her front yard minutes before she saw Lugo walking past her house, then immediately saw several police cars stop, officers get out, and start beating Lugo.
District Attorney Michael Harrigan later grilled Davila asking her why does she like to go outside and does she normally go in her front yard, like there's something wrong with that.
I mean last time I checked, this is America, correct?
People do have the right to go outside of their homes right?
On the stand, officers Flanagan, Hasper and Doran spoke and looked more like soldiers sent to fight enemies in a war zone, than police officers who have taken an oath to serve and protect.
That war zone being Rochester's east side, or as they refer to it, PSA 23, an area where the majority of the residents are Latino and African-American.
On the stand, each officer's face lit up when describing their "fighting" and "combat training" they each took at the police academy, along with the many "holds" and "moves" such as "three point landings" and "knee strikes" they use on people.
At one point, all three officers admitted to doing several "knee strikes" on an already handcuffed, already on the ground, Jose Lugo.
When asked by the defense what a "knee strike" was, officer Flangan said "It's when you drive your knee into a person's torso, hard, just like kicking a soccer ball."
At another point, Zoughlin asked officer Hasper "Officer, you punched Jose Lugo in his face correct?"
Hasper replied, "I performed a distractionary jab."
To which Zoughlin again asked, "You punched Jose Lugo in his face correct?"
And again Hasper replied, "I performed a distractionary jab."
RPD officer Joel Hasper refused to admit that what he calls a "distractionary jab", is a punch to the face of an innocent young man.
A young man who was not doing anything wrong.
Throughout the trial, it was clear, that all three RPD officers have a certain disgust towards the people who live in the North Clinton Ave./Flower Street area they patrol.
And that right there, is the problem.
The City of Rochester and the Rochester, NY Police department have placed these officers, mostly white, most who do not even reside in the city, in mostly African-American and Latino neighborhoods, which they consider "war zones."
Where these officers look at, treat, and consider the residents of those neighborhoods as the enemy.
Where these officers, who think they are above the law, profile, harass and abuse Latinos and African-Americans, on a daily basis.
These officers' rogue and illegal conduct goes unchecked and undisciplined by their superiors, including RPD Chief James Sheppard, who although he would never admit it, he as well as other members of the RPD's top brass, not only encourage, but actually instruct officers to behave in this manner.
Then, Chief Sheppard has the nerve to put up billboards throughout the city with slogans such as "We've Got Your Back." and "On The Same Team.", while he gets in front a few television cameras, desperately asking for the community to respect and trust his officers, and his department.
One would think that the City of Rochester, NY, under the leadership of Mayor Thomas Richards, not only a former attorney, but the former Corporation Counsel for the City of Rochester, would take a zero-tolerance stance against these rogue, corrupt, unlawful police officers such as Kevin Flanagan, Joel Hasper and Richard Doran, who are not only a danger to innocent Rochester citizens, but are also a finacial liability to the City of Rochester, and get rid of them.
Officers who break the law, drive up the wrong way on one-way streets, unlawfully stop and search innocent people, beat them, pepper-spray concerned neighbors while confiscating their cell phones, then arrest them in order to cover up their illegal actions.
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