Police chief responds to News10NBC investigation about officer still being paid after 2-year suspension

Rochester Police chief responds to News10NBC report about officer’s suspension with pay for two years

Rochester Police chief responds to News10NBC report about officer's suspension with pay for two years

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester Police chief answered questions on Friday about why he’s still paying a detective who has been suspended for nearly two years.  Members of the Rochester City Council saw the News10NBC story about the situation on Thursday night and used a budget hearing on Friday with the police chief to ask him about it. 

RPD Detective Charles LoTempio was suspended in July of 2022 after a News10NBC report showed surveillance video of him shoving an EMT up against a desk and handcuffing her inside the emergency room at Strong Memorial Hospital. 

The EMT had hit LoTempio’s car door in the ambulance bay while unloading a patient. He asked for her ID but she kept walking with her patient. LoTempio followed her inside where he took her into custody. 

Public records show that LoTempio collected a salary of $113,392 in 2023 despite having not worked a single day. 

Under civil service law, before being fired or more severely disciplined, a police officer has the right to what’s known as a Section 75 hearing. It apparently took more than a year to find an arbitrator who would take the case.  News10NBC has learned that while the hearing has finally taken place in the case, the City of Rochester and the Locust Club are still awaiting the recommendations from the arbitrator.

The EMT, Lekia Smith, has filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Rochester. Her attorney tells News10NBC the suit and a workers’ compensation claim has been delayed, pending the outcome of the Section 75 hearing. 

At a budget hearing on Friday, Police Chief David Smith was asked about the situation. 

Stanley Martin (Member, Rochester City Council) – “There was a report that came out about an officer who had been suspended for two years with pay; I’m trying to understand how often that happens and the general duration. Could you please provide data, and I understand this may have to be confidential, about the officers who’ve been suspended with pay over the last five years, the duration of their suspension and any of the administration’s reasoning behind that?”

David Smith (Chief, Rochester Police Department) – “We can certainly provide that. I can tell you off the top of my head right now I only have one member who is suspended with pay. Generally, it’s my decision obviously if there’s going to be a suspension and the way I look at it is, if the allegations could potentially lead to termination, or if there would be a potential danger to the community if I left that person out there, then the suspension goes into effect. Now, in New York State an officer can only be suspended without pay for 30 days unless you can have that hearing within 30 days. So, there really is no option to suspend without pay, it’s suspended with pay until it goes through the process. And once it goes through the process they have a right to an Article 75 process, which again takes time. So, if you look at New York City, you see on TV all the time, they hand out suspensions left and right whether they’re accurate or not, that’s what you see. They have a designated hearing judge for NYPD; if a supervisor brings charges, it goes in front of that hearing judge and it’s done. We have a list of hearing officers we have to bring in to cover the state. It takes months, sometimes a year to get on a hearing officer’s schedule. Then to have the hearing and then for the hearing officer to render the decision, so that’s where you get the long terms; it’s the process that we have to deal with.”

Chief Smith went on to explain that the department has to reach out to each possible hearing judge to see if they’ll accept the case. “They have the option to not accept, so if you can’t get a hearing Judge to accept the case then it just languishes on,” he added.