Schenectady County

Probe clears Rotterdam police officers

A Rotterdam Police Department investigation has denied a claim of excessive use of force by two offi

A Rotterdam Police Department investigation has denied a claim of excessive use of force by two officers and a sergeant following a traffic stop on Greenpoint Avenue last month.

Deputy Chief William Manikas said Tuesday four independent witnesses claimed Kenneth West Jr. was belligerent during the traffic stop, thereby justifying his forceful arrest by officers Jeffrey Amoroso and Vincent Stone. The witnesses also disputed claims by his mother, Lisa West, alleging that Sgt. Robert Denny choked her during the incident.

“The officers, all three of them, have been exonerated in the claim of excessive use of force,” he said. “The use of force was reasonable and consistent with department guidelines and regulations.”

Manikas said one of the three admitted to using profanity during the arrest and will be disciplined internally. He declined to name the officer.

The complaint was filed last week by Fred Clark, the vice president of Schenectady’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Though both West and her son are white, the NAACP became involved because the organization aids individuals claiming police abuse with filing grievances.

Clark wasn’t surprised by the police department’s findings and said the Wests are exploring a lawsuit against the department. He said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted to the complaint. “There’s still another investigation to go,” he said.

Attempts to reach the Wests were unsuccessful Tuesday. Calls placed to the FBI were not returned late Tuesday afternoon.

The complaint stems from a Feb. 14 arrest involving the son, who was flagged by Amoroso after he rolled through a stop sign in front of his family’s home. After arguing with Amoroso, West claims he was ordered out of his car and then tackled by Stone, who arrived as backup.

At some point during the altercation, the mother claimed she was approached by Denny. She said Denny grabbed her by her throat and pushed her away from the officers trying to arrest her son.

Police records show the son was arrested on the misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice, and violation charges of disorderly conduct, failing to produce a license and disobeying a stop sign. He was later cited with the misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

Manikas said the whole situation could have been avoided had West complied with Amoroso’s commands to remain in his truck during the stop, and then later to exit the vehicle when he was being taken into custody. He said West’s mother also ignored police orders to stay away from the scene and was physically pushed away by Denny.

“The bottom line is that if these people comply with the officers’ instructions, these situations can certainly can be avoided,” he said.

Manikas said Denny actually tried to calm the situation by not pursuing charges against the mother, while several family members looked on. Instead, he said Denny correctly decided to remove the son to defuse a potentially explosive environment.

“That is what his thought process was, get out of there before someone gets hurt.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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