While the Rochester Police Department is currently making national headlines for handcuffing and pepper spraying a 9-year-old girl, the Geneva Police Department has faced their own allegations of egregious use of force against children, resulting in monetary settlements for two lawsuits over the last decade. Those lawsuits accused several GPD officers, including current Chief Mike Passalacqua and current Detective Steven Vine, of violently assaulting minors.
“(The officers) unlawfully struck (him) and threw him facedown on the concrete”
According to documents related to a civil action, on January 17, 2010, a 12-year-old Geneva boy (“Daniel”) and his friends were waiting outside a downtown restaurant for their other friends to exit. When one of the boys knocked on the restaurant’s front window to get the other friend’s attention, the restaurant owner called the Geneva Police Department to report “boys banging on his window.” The GPD sent three officers to the scene: Robert Peters II, Timothy Vanderline and current GPD Chief Mike Passalacqua.
“Upon arrival Officer Vanderline stopped the twelve (12) year old boys nearby and had them “assume the position” against a brick wall whereupon they were stopped, frisked and searched. During the detention, Officer Vanderlinde began to reach into the pockets of (Daniel). At that time (Daniel) reacted by pushing his hand away from his groin area, whereupon the officers grabbed (Daniel) and tackled him on the cement sidewalk causing an abrasion on his forehead. (Daniel) was then taken to the Geneva Police station where he was detained for approximately two hours until being released to his mother without charges later that night.”
In April 2011, a lawsuit was filed against the City of Geneva, accusing Passalacqua and his colleagues of forcibly and unlawfully detaining, assaulting, and arresting the child. The lawsuit also claimed that assault by the officers caused “abrasions, and bruising to (the boy’s) face, head and torso,” and that the boy “suffered permanent scarring on his face and conscious pain and suffering.” The officers were also accused of “verbal threats and indignant language” towards the boy.
On August 23, 2013, the lawsuit was settled, with the City of Geneva paying a total of $15,000. After paying court fees, attorneys and other costs, the remaining amount of $8,933.31 deposited in an account for Daniel that he would receive on his 18th birthday.
“Don’t speak Spanish, speak English. This is America”
A civil action was filed by a Geneva woman (“Paula”) against the City of Geneva, GPD, and several officers including Steven Vine.
Paula said that, on or around June 15, 2008, Vine and other officers had entered her home without consent, questioned her sons and demanded their identification, made verbal threats, and mocked the family’s Puerto Rican heritage. After the incident, Paula filed a complaint against the officers.
While this complaint was pending, on August 21, 2008, Vine and Officer Matthew Colton stopped Paula’s 17-year-old son on the street and arrested him. Paula’s 14-year-old son (“David”) arrived, and his older brother asked David to take home his bag of groceries. According to the civil action:
“Defendant Vine ordered the boys not to speak Spanish and when (David) stated that he did not know much English, Defendant Vine became angry and stated in sum and substance: “Don’t speak Spanish, speak English. This is America”. Defendant Vine grabbed (David) by the throat and pushed him against the police car and began to strike him repeatedly with a police baton.
Thereafter, Defendant Vine and another Geneva officer continued to beat and then unlawfully arrested the 14 year old (David) and placed him in handcuffs in the police car. (David) was thereafter transported to the Geneva Police station where he was detained until being released without charges later that night.”
Later that evening, Paula said Colton knocked loudly on her door and asked to come inside to “look for someone.” When Paula refused to allow the officer into her home, she said he pushed the door, hitting her in the face and entering her home.
Paula said Vine and Officer Randall Grenier arrived shortly thereafter and helped Colton conduct “a warrantless and unlawful search.” According to the civil action:
“(The officers) approached (Paula’s) 16 year old son, who was sitting on the couch. Defendants put a gun to (Paula’)s son’s head and threatened to kill him. (Paula’s) 16 year old son was then manhandled and struck by the defendants, taken off the couch and told at gunpoint that if he moved he was dead.
On May 25, 2011, a motion was filed by Paula’s lawyer for a settlement of $20,000. Paula and her sons had moved back to Puerto Rico, making it difficult for Paula to continue attending court dates.
On July 12, 2011, a “stipulation of discontinuance” was filed and the attorneys on both sides agreed to end the case after one year and nine months.