Image: Rochester City Newspaper
In Rochester, New York Charles LoTempio, a police investigator, has been suspended with pay for placing a Black EMT in handcuffs after the ambulance she was driving bumped his police vehicle in a hospital ambulance bay while unloading a patient.
EMT Lekia Smith was handcuffed at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester as she was standing next to the patient she was transported on the stretcher.
Video shows Smith begging the police investigator to allow her to safely transport the patient into the hospital first. Immediately after Smith assisted the patient off the stretcher and began the check-in process at the desk, the police investigator was seen placing her hands and arms behind her back, handcuffing her, and moving her out towards his police car.
Initially following the incident LoTempio was placed on administrative leave but has now been suspended pending the ongoing investigation. It has also been reported that LoTempio has a history of violations, including abuse of force.
“I have high expectations for all members of the Rochester Police Department. Obviously, this incident is deeply concerning to me,” Rochester Police Chief David Smith said.
Interestingly, the Locust Club, the union that represents police officers in Rochester, NY is very concerned about LoTempio’s suspension and feels like it was unwarranted.
“The incident in question reached a mutually acceptable resolution that day when both the investigator and the EMT were able to jointly discuss the reasons for their actions, and both accepted each other’s explanations,” the union said in a Monday statement.
Smith is currently filing a lawsuit against the city of Rochester as well as the police investigator. Her lawyer, Elliot Shields, said the officer placed Smith in a bear hug during the incident and caused her to let go of the patient’s stretcher, which could have caused harm to the patient.
This officer lost his cool,” says Elliot Shields. Her reaction was, “I have a priority-one call I need to get my patient inside, my identification is in the front seat and as soon as I make sure that my patient is inside and receiving the emergency medical treatment that they need I will get you my identification,” Shields tells News10NBC.
History of Violations
Public records indicate that LoTempio has pleaded guilty on two separate incidences regarding abuse of force. The first was strip-searching a man without a warrant and then knocking a man’s teeth out with a flashlight during a traffic stop. These occurred in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The first incident resulted in a letter of reprimand from the former Chief while the second resulted in a 30-day suspension without pay and he also transferred from the East to West Patrol Division.
LoTempio has been with the Rochester Police Department since 2005 and was promoted to investigator in 2015.
“We don’t need officers like LoTempio out there making the City Of Rochester look bad, making the Rochester Police Department look bad and endangering the lives of people in the City of Rochester,” Shields says.
Smith is currently taking some time off to recover both mentally and physically.
On Monday, she released a statement through the group Save Rochester, “Once I am feeling better, I just want my life to go back to normal and continue on in my career as an EMT. I pray that this never happens to anyone again and I also pray that the justice that is needed in this situation is served swiftly.”