ITHACA, N.Y.—The Community Police Board has cleared Ithaca Police Department Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello of wrongdoing as part of the events of Oct. 22, when several protesters were arrested and a larger group was pepper sprayed during a demonstration outside of IPD’s headquarters in downtown Ithaca.

Complaints had been made regarding two incidents involving Monticello that stem from that day, both of which are addressed in the report. There is a separate, ongoing review by the CPB to assess the department’s use of pepper spray that night which has not yet been completed. The complaints against Monticello had spawned a petition calling for him to leave IPD. The full report can be read at the bottom of this page.

Monticello was initially accused of racial bias in the arrest of Massia White-Saunders, a Black man who was charged with harassment after throwing a water bottle at a passing car after a press conference held by Rep. Tom Reed on Meadow Street earlier on Oct. 22. His arrest led to a small protest outside of IPD, which led to the subsequent arrest of Genevieve Rand for obstructing governmental administration because she was in the driveway of IPD as an officer was attempting to respond to a call; Monticello was captured on camera misgendering Rand during that arrest.

That arrest further led to five more arrests of protesters as tensions continued to rise throughout the night. Eventually, police declared an “unlawful assembly” and deployed pepper spray to scatter the remaining protesters.

According to the Community Police Board’s report, they dealt with the two arrest incidents separately, though both are included in the report. The board stated that they did not find Monticello “escalated the situation,” as had been alleged by those who submitted complaints about the arrest.

White-Saunders and Monticello are seen on the video arguing with each other before White-Saunders is placed under arrest. Videos from social media of the incident show that fellow protesters at the scene were loudly claiming to Monticello that the man who pulled over after White-Saunders threw a water bottle at his car had brandished a knife and threatened the protesters, including White-Saunders. Monticello is seen on tape dismissing these claims, although a “small knife” was later found in the man’s car. No charges were brought in connection to that incident.

“The CPB concludes that there is no evidence that DC Monticello acted unprofessionally in this interaction,” the board said. “Evidence does not lead us to conclude that there was any explicit racial bias against the counter-protester or racial preference for the driver of the car on the part of DC Monticello.”

Messages left seeking comment from White-Saunders have not yet been returned.

As for the arrest of Rand, which occurred later in the day, Monticello was accused of using male pronouns to refer to Rand, a transgender woman. On tape, this happened three separate times, each of which Rand objects to, with Monticello responding apologetically.

“Video evidence does not indicate an attempt to identify the woman as male or to be intentionally demeaning or offensive; the videos point to more of an inadvertent violation of professional standards,” the report states. “This is not to excuse DC Monticello, but rather to strongly remind him and all other officers that misgendering does matter deeply to people and is often rightly taken as personally insulting.”

The CPB suggested that a reminder be sent to all IPD personnel to remind them of proper conduct towards the LGBTQ+ community. When asked for comment, Rand offered a circumspect response on the relationship between IPD and the community as a whole, and additionally addressed the point that the police board did not interview her, White Saunders or other protesters involved that night.

“The mistake is believing that this community thinks like IPD,” she said. “That we’re more offended by a Black man with a water bottle than a white man screaming that he should die. That when shots are fired in our community, the police should show up with more guns. That a police board interviewing cops but not their victims looks like justice to us. That protest is supposed to be polite, pretty and not disruptive. I have faith that we’re better than that—it’s up to everyone reading how you show it.”

Community Police Board report by Matt Butler on Scribd

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com