Driving an Ambulance While Black in Rochester

A Rochester Police Department investigator parked his car in the ambulance bay at Strong Memorial Hospital. A Black female EMT hit the cop’s door while unloading a patient. The investigator insisted on ID. The EMT insisted on bringing the patient inside. In footage from inside the hospital the officer entered the hospital and approached the EMT, who was working with a patient on a gurney in the bay. The officer walked in, placed both hands behind the EMT’s back, and put on the handcuffs. The officer then led the EMT out of the hospital while holding onto the EMT’s handcuffs. The EMT was removed from the handcuffs after a supervisor arrived and did not face any charges. He’s been placed on desk duty. An internal investigation was ordered. Following are excerpts from a commentary by Rochester columnist Howard Eagle in reference to the incident.

Rochester, NY is back in national news again, and the central issue is not merely a matter of one, single, out-ofcontrol, White, Rochester Police Department (RPD) officer manhandling a Black, EMT ambulance worker (while she was in the process of attending to a patient at Rochester’s most prestigious hospital Strong Memorial Hospital ).

It’s much deeper than that. More than likely, the real, central issue and problem is long standing, ongoing, individual and institutional racism. How do we know this? We know by virtue of the historical record, which (to paraphrase the late, great, grassroots scholar, Malik El Shabazz), “is best qualified to reward our research.”

No doubt, some will argue, there’s no proof that the attack of the Black female EMT worker by a White male cop has anything to do with race or racism. Some will even attempt to label the mention of it as representing the silly notion of so-called “playing the race card,” and will have the audacity to demand proof – ‘riddle me this: when is the last time you witnessed a White, male RPD member attack a White woman ambulance worker or otherwise ? Now, ask yourself the same question regarding Black females. At least several outstanding situations should come to mind immediately.

We remember Brenda Hardaway, right? How can we forget the punch squarely to the side of her head, and being slammed to the ground (during pregnancy)? How about the Black woman that an RPD officer pepper-sprayed and tackled to the ground in front of her 3-year old child last year? We remember the 10 year old Black girl that RPD handcuffed during a routine traffic stop in 2020, right? And how could we ever forget the 9-year-old girl that RPD handcuffed and pepper sprayed last year, and told her, “you did it to yourself”? Surely there have been others. I’ll wait for the White list.

Of course some have attempted to portray the most recent attack as an isolated incident. Even the ambulance company for which the attacked Black woman works, attempted to portray it as such. They issued a half-hearted, milk-toast statement of “support” for the Black employee, but still maintained in part that: “We would, however, appreciate resisting derogatory comments against RPD as an organization.

This incident was perpetrated by a single individual and subject to investigation by his employer, everyone is entitled to due process regardless of opinion. ” The unadulterated truth of the matter is that clearly this is not an isolated incident at all. These types of actions on the part of RPD have happened to Black folks, over and over again, literally for decades.

The fact that media pundits, governmental and business officials, and other pow”important” people keep dancing around the fundamental truth (as opposed to facing it head-on), that RPD, like all other major institutions in this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based society, especially and particularly those involved with so-called criminal “justice” and law enforcement, which is racist to the core It’s not possible to solve problems, while at the same time, denying their existence.

Additionally, I am always baffled by the deafening silence of most so-called anti-racist activists, educators, and “allies” when these kinds of situations arise, Lastly, the recent case is very, important. It represents the perfect test case regarding the (finally operative) Rochester Police Accountability Board’s seriousness, and/or capability to hold the Rochester Police Department accountable for potentially illegal, and definitely inappropriate misbehavior.

Time will tell, as it always does.