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Six individuals plan to file lawsuits against Utica

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A family claiming excessive police force sat down with the Utica Police Chief and the Utica Mayor Friday, to talk about an incident that was caught on tape.

On Thursday, the group staged a peaceful protest that got the attention of city officials. Six members of the family are now filing lawsuits against the city. "They saw the video tape," said Vivian Maldonado, speaking on behalf of the family. "They spoke about what happened, what they can do to help us."

Maldonado is Puerto Rican and so is her husband's family. Many of them only speak Spanish. All parties agree, there's a language barrier in the city. "That's a big problem with a lot of nationalities in Utica," said Maldonado. "There's a lot of different cultures and there's not a lot of people who know how to speak all these languages."

Family members say back on March 27th, there was a disagreement between neighbors over a parking spot. Soon afterwards, the cops were called. "The problem was already escalated when the cops got there but it could have been resolved if the officers did speak Spanish," said Maldonado. "Spanish speaking officers could of interpreted it and said calm down- or have someone there to help the situation but they didn't have that."

Family members say police used excessive force and made several unnecessary arrests. Chief Williams says cases like this deserve investigation. "When I came here what I was mainly interested in 'was there alleged police misconduct?' and that was my main goal for coming here because if there was, I have the responsibility to hold my own officers responsible if that was the case," said Utica Police Chief Williams. "It gives us some opportunity to see if there was some wrongdoing on our officers part or as a community as a police department we can do better by maybe training to try and break some barriers, trying to explain to their community their group to explain to them what police procedure is about. We'd be willing to do that."

Chief Williams was able to watch the video. "I didn't see anything damning, that was anything out of the ordinary," said Chief Williams. "But in fairness to them they are currently sitting with the guys from Office of Professional Standards to go over frame by frame of the video."

Six members of the family are filing lawsuits against the city. Each filed written complaints inside City Hall on Friday.

Maldonado says her father-in-law was beat by police officers during his arrest last month. She interpreted some of what he was saying inside City Hall on Friday. "He says he wants the racism to stop. He says we're Puerto Ricans, but we're citizens. They treated us like immigrants and we're not."

The family said overall they were pretty satisfied with the meeting and with Chief Williams. They say he was very nice and listened to what they had to say.

The man who was filming the video was also arrested that day. He says it was devastating, especially for it to happen in front of his small children. He says he was not doing anything wrong and would simply like an apology from the officer that arrested him. He says he is studying English so that he could become a police officer in Utica.

The family says fixing the language barrier in the city would be a huge step in the right direction and are calling this a big misunderstanding.

The family members who are filing lawsuits against the city say they are meeting with their lawyers to determine how to move forward.

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