Troopers investigate protested incident

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Protesters at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Penn Yan earlier this month were speaking out against actions by a New York State Trooper who took two people into custody because they could not produce identification. The incident is being investigated internally, say the Troopers.

UPDATE: Additional information about this incident was received after the print deadline for the Aug. 23 issue of The Chronicle-Express. This article reflects the new information, which gives more details about the events on June 29.

A spokesperson for the New York State Police confirms that an internal investigation is ongoing in relation to an incident a local group recently protested.

On Aug. 2, an immigration protest held at St Mark’s Episcopal Church focused on a New York State Police Trooper from out of the area who allegedly violated a directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. That directive, which was distributed to troopers in the form of an executive memo instructed troopers to refrain from asking about immigration status when investigating non-criminal activities. In September 2014 Cuomo launched an initiative to protect undocumented immigrants from police actions where non-criminal offenses are involved. This initiative became official police policy.

At about 11 a.m. June 29, 2017 a New York State trooper who was reportedly assigned to the area on a temporary basis, stopped a vehicle in the town of Jerusalem because the driver was not wearing a seat belt. Although the trooper cited the driver and let him go, the trooper asked two back seat passengers for identification. When the passengers were unable to provide ID, the trooper detained them and held them at the Dundee Trooper barracks for Border Patrol arrest and possible deportation.

A border patrol agent interviewed the subjects over the phone and arrived at the barracks at about 12:40 p.m., taking the individuals into custody at 12:45 p.m. and transporting them to the Rochester Border Patrol station for further investigation. 

Siobhan Dingwall, interim communications manager for the New York Immigration Coalition reported in early August that the two passengers were in removal proceedings. “We are hearing from the family that one may have already been deported,” she wrote in an email on Aug. 3.

A Border Patrol spokesman has confirmed the incident, although none of the agencies have provided the subject’s names.

“This trooper violated state police policy in this incident. This police action sent a chilling message to the entire immigrant community, a community in Yates County that grows the food that we eat,” said the protestors in a statement released after their event.

The New York Immigration Coalition, The Workers’ Justice Center, and the Workers’ Center of Central New York, joined with over 60 members of the Penn Yan faith community to protest this breach of police protocol.

In their statement, the protestors demand that the investigation begun by state officials of this protocol breech be public and transparent to determine whether the officer should be held individually liable for this action. The group applauds the State government for opening an investigation into this incident.

The Rev. Dan Burner began the Aug. 2 protest with a prayer for justice for individuals who live in legal jeopardy.

“The rally also provided additional speakers who discussed the plight of immigrants who find themselves at the mercy of law enforcement. The individuals detained have lived in the U.S. for 20 years and have never been involved in criminal activities. The Penn Yan faith community will continue to press for action against State Police Troopers who unilaterally decide to violate police policy concerning the immigrant community,” says a statement released by the protesters.