Would the call where RPD Officer Denny Wright was attacked be handled differently now?
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — By now, thousands of us have watched the body camera video that shows Rochester police officer Denny Wright getting attacked. It was released Wednesday night after his attacker, Keith Williams, was found guilty of attempted murder.
A lot has changed with police since that day and the death of Daniel Prude six months later. So we were surprised when people told News10NBC that if that same call came in today, the response would not be very different.
Both the RPD and the police union say no.
RPD said no because that call was for a family problem. They didn’t know it was a mental health issue until Officer Wright was in the house for several minutes.
The union said no because to this day, they say the police are the first to show up.
When Denny Wright went into the home three years ago, it took about three minutes before he was told there was a mental health issue.
"He goes so long without those shots," one woman told him. "His mind, he’s got schizophrenia."
Wright’s body camera video shows Wright called for an ambulance, told Keith Williams he will be okay, and asked the family for patience.
But after Williams tried to run from the house, the situation turned in an instant.
Williams sucker-punched Wright on the front porch and then stabbed him multiple times.
Brean: "Would that situation be handled differently now?"
Mike Mazzeo, RPD Locust Club: "Absolutely not. Not at all."
Mazzeo is the president of the police union. He says the union is collecting data including body camera video that he says shows the police, even if they would rather not handle mental health crises, are still the best at de-escalating them.
"The data is going to show that, even with a PIC team, our members are there first and also are the ones that will engage with an individual," he said.
PIC is the Person in Crisis unit and the city’s data shows the system is different now. In the last six months of 2021, PIC was called to more than 5,000 cases and about half of the time, PIC was dispatched with police.
Brean: "I just think people will be a little surprised that based on all of the discussion we’ve had, the changes we’ve seen in the police and city in the past two years or so that you don’t think that this situation would be handled differently."
Mazzeo: "Listen, I wish there was another way to handle it differently. But nothing has changed, quite frankly since Denny Wright or Daniel Prude. And since those incidents we’ve continued to have similar incidents where our officers have handled those situations, have been the ones who have deescalated the situation."
There is usually one officer per car in the RPD, but two weeks ago, RPD Chief Dave Smith directed his captains to put two officers in one car as much as they can.
It’s temporary but it’s an active order.