Upstate Cops NY Cops Lose Suit After Alleged Gay Bashing

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday October 29, 2010

A suit by a group of police officers against the city of Rochester, NY, following an alleged incident of anti-gay conduct has been tossed out by a federal judge.

Rochester newspaper the Democrat and Chronicle reported Oct. 28 that the suit was brought after the officers in question were cleared of anti-gay conduct in a 2007 clash with gay residents who had complained that a group of heterosexual individuals had physically and verbally assaulted them. A conflict broke out between the officers and the gay residents in the early hours of June 1 of that year, after police allowed the alleged assailants to depart the scene. The conflict led to disorderly conduct charges against several gay residents, who in turn accused the police of hurling anti-gay epithets.

Officers David MacFall, Stephen Tortora, Stephen Ward, and Michael Yodice were subjected to an internal investigation after the incident. The investigation cleared the officers of criminal conduct, but determined that they had made procedural errors. The investigation eventually resulted in six-month suspensions for the four officers after the officers refused suspensions ranging from five to twenty days. The officers then brought suit against the city, claiming that the investigation had been "virtually preordained" and was motivated by political considerations. A separate proceeding challenging the disciplinary action is still ongoing, the article said.

U.S. District Judge David Larimer found that the suit's claim that the officers' right to due process had been trampled was groundless, in part because of the ongoing challenge to their suspensions. The suit had also claimed that the suspensions resulted in lost opportunities for overtime hours and promotions, but Larimer noted that, "As a general principle, there is no constitutional right to overtime pay or similar benefits."

The officers have the backing of the police union and the Police Locust Club in the matter of the hearing into the disciplinary hearing, reported Rochester Your News Now on Sept. 8. The president of the Police Locust Club, Mike Mazzeo, said that the prosecution was involved in an attempt "to find any little nit-picking possible violation of some 6,000 page general order that they can hang on these guys."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.