A Western New York City Police investigator has been suspended after handcuffing an emergency medical technician in a hospital emergency room after hitting his vehicle while unloading a patient from an ambulance .
The suspension was announced by city police on Monday, a week after EMT Lekia Smith was handcuffed at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Security video obtained by WHEC-TV shows the investigator supporting Smith, a black woman, in a corner as she stood next to a patient on a stretcher. He grabs her arm, puts his hands behind her back and leads her outside.
Police said the incident was under investigation, but declined to provide details and did not release the name of the officer. The officer is still paid during his suspension.
Smith’s attorney, Elliot Shields, said it started outside after the investigator parked in the ambulance bay. The EMT got out of his ambulance to offload a patient and hit the police car with his door. The investigator asked for her identity, but Smith explained that she had to get her patient inside first.
Shields said the investigator then hugged her, causing her to temporarily lose her grip on the stretcher before breaking free. After handcuffing the EMT at the hospital, the officer took her to his vehicle and questioned her before letting her go, Shields said.
“We don’t need investigators — high-ranking officers — acting like this, endangering the community,” Shields said.
Smith released a statement through community group Save Rochester saying she still has “some mental and physical difficulties” but wants to return to work as a paramedic and see justice done quickly.
Rochester Police Chief David Smith has promised a thorough investigation.
“Obviously, this incident concerns me deeply,” he said in a statement.
Rochester police union, the Locust Club, called the investigator’s suspension “puzzling”.
“The incident in question reached a mutually agreeable resolution that day when the investigator and the EMT were able to jointly discuss the reasons for their actions, and both accepted each other’s explanations,” it said. he said in a statement.
Shields said that was not accurate.
Save Rochester said the incident indicated a damaged relationship between police and people of color. In 2020, police and city officials came under fire for their handling of the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, a black man who died in March a week after being restrained by officers against the sidewalk until he stops breathing.
Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.